What else could Aix-en-Provence and Punxsutauney have in common besides expatriate Pennsylvanians?
Tim and I have been celebrating our native roots by showing the Bill Murray “Groundhog Day” movie on a Saturday evening close to February 2nd ever since 2001. Not to ruin the story for those of you who’ve not yet seen it, what if you woke up every day in the same place, with everything the same day after day, after day? Everything is predictable, safe, and dull.
Winter sometimes feels as if it’s going to last forever. The dark days cast long shadows, and the chill makes me consider hibernation as a viable option. What am I going to do about it? Run and hide from my shadow and maybe try again in another six weeks, or go sing and dance in the cold, warm up by the fire and get out there all over again? Every time I see this movie, I’m more aware of how much more exciting and enjoyable is a life lived to the full.
This year, we’ve had two ICCP special events in one weekend, with the Groundhog party on Saturday, and a baptism evening on
Interestingly enough, both events have long histories. Ever since there has been winter, man has longed for the arrival of spring. Without the hope of renewal and rebirth, we are doomed to perpetual darkness. The human spirit is enslaved in the tomb of its own physical constraints.
Western cultures think of baptism as a Christian rite of passage, but its roots stem from Jewish cleansing rituals and ceremonial washing as instituted in Leviticus 12-14. Pennsylvania Dutch immigrants brought their mid-winter custom of prognostication to the new world in the 18th century. Even as they left the oppression of state enforced religion, they carried generations’ worth of established pagan tradition.
The Biblical account of the Jews’ emigration parallels that of anyone who’s attempted an exodus from constraint, whether external or internal. Captivity comes in different forms. We all carry some sort of compulsion, so the Exodus story is eternally relevant.
The sons of Jacob lived in peace with their Egyptian neighbors, and succeeding generations “were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them. Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph (Genesis 37; 39-50), came to power in Egypt….” (Exodus 1:7-8) As happens with so many powerful people, when they feel a threat from someone, they react with oppression rather than kinship. For 430 years to the day (Ex 12:41), the Israelite people lived to serve their masters.
Once freed from their enslavement, it didn’t take long until the victory celebration turned to hunger and despair. Suddenly, submission to the establishment seemed worth one more taste of Egyptian lentils, garlic and onions! How often do we choose one more demeaning return to captivity because it seems more comfortable than the reality of life unrestrained? Freedom can be frightening. Life outside the burrow is dangerous!
But sometimes, getting out there requires staying in one place, seeking relationship, and connAIXion! Maybe winter will last forever—we’re getting to that time of year when it seems that spring is still months away—so our love for each other is the only way to get us through the worst and encourage us for the best.
Don’t drive angry.