For some people,Â Christmas can be a very lonely time.Â People grieving the death of a spouse orÂ the loss of a mate through divorce oftenÂ feel painfully lonely at Christmas. Seniors living in nursing homesÂ sometimes find little cheer in the holidays that remind them of their separation from loved ones.Â People struggling with addictions that have fractured their families feel the sting of loneliness at Christmas.
The story of “Barrington Bunny,” from The Way of the Wolf, by Martin Bell,Â reminds us that we are not alone at Christmas time, no matter what hand life has dealt us. Here’s the story.
Once upon a time in a large forest there lived a very furry bunny. He had one ear that hung down, a tiny black nose and unusually shiny eyes. His name was Barrington.
Barrington was not really a very handsome bunny. He was brown and speckled and his ear didn’t stand up right. But he could hop and he was very furry.
In a way winter is fun for bunnies. After all, it gives them a chance to hop in the snow and then to turn around and see where they have hopped. So, in a way, winter was fun for Barrington.
But in another way, winter made Barrington sad. For, you see, winter was the time when all the animals got together in their cozy homes to celebrate Christmas.
He could hop and he was very furry. But as far as Barrington knew, he was the only bunny in the forest.
When Christmas finally came, Barrington did not feel like going home all by himself. So he decided that he would hop for a while in the clearing in the center of the forest.
Barrington made fresh tracks in the snow. Then he turned around to see the wonderful designs he had made.
Bunnies, he thought to himself, can hop. And we are warm too, because of how furry we are. (Barrington didn’t really know whether or not this was true of all bunnies, since he’d never met another bunny.)
When it got too dark to see the tracks he was making, Barrington made up his mind to go home. On his way he passed a large oak tree. High up in the branches there was a lot of excited chatter going on. It was a squirrel family. What a marvelous time they seemed to be having.
“Hello, up there!” shouted Barrington.
Hello down there! replied the squirrels.
“Having a Christmas party?”
Oh yes! It’s Christmas Eve. Everybody is having a party!
“May I come to your party?”
Are you a squirrel?
What are you then?
Well, how can you come to the party if you are a bunny? Bunnies can’t climb trees.
“That’s true. But I can hop and I’m very furry and warm.”
We’re sorry. We don’t know anything about hopping and being furry. But we do know that to come to our house you have to be able to climb a tree.
“Oh. Well, Merry Christmas.”
Merry Christmas, chattered the squirrels. And the unfortunate bunny hopped off toward his house.
It was beginning to snow when Barrington reached the river. Near the river was a wonderfully built house of sticks and mud. Inside there was singing.
It’s the beavers, thought Barrington. Maybe they will let me come to their party. So he knocked on the door.
Who’s out there? called the beavers.
There was a long pause and then a shiny beaver head broke the water.
“Hello, Mr. Beaver. May I come to your party?”
The beaver thought for a while then said, I suppose so. Do you know how to swim?
“No, but I can hop and I’m very furry and warm.”
Sorry, I don’t know anything about hopping and being furry. But I do know that to come to our house you have to be able to swim.
“Oh, well,” Barrington muttered, his eyes filling with tears. “I suppose that’s true. Merry Christmas.”
Even as furry as he was, Barrington was beginning to get cold. And the snow was falling so hard that his tiny bunny eyes could hardly see what was in front of him.
He was almost home when he heard the excited squeaking of field mice beneath the ground.
“It’s a party,” thought Barrington.
And suddenly he blurted out through his tears, “Hello field mice. This is Barrington Bunny. May I come to your party?”
But the wind was howling so loudly and Barrington was sobbing so much that no one heard him. And when there was no response at all, Barrington just sat down in the snow and began to cry with all his might.
Bunnies aren’t any good to anyone. What good is it to be warm and furry and to be able to hop if you don’t have a family on Christmas Eve?
Barrington cried and cried. When he stopped crying he began to bite on his bunny’s foot, but he did not move from where he was sitting in the snow.
Suddenly, Barrington was aware that he was not alone. He looked up and strained his shiny eyes to see who was there. To his surprise he saw a great silver wolf.
The wolf was large and strong and his eyes flashed with fire and were full of love. He was the most beautiful animal Barrington had ever seen.
For a long time the silver wolf didn’t say anything at all. He just looked at Barrington with those terrible eyes. Then the wolf spoke.
Barrington, why are you sitting in the snow?
“Because it’s Christmas Eve, and I don’t have any family, and bunnies aren’t any good to anyone.
Bunnies are good. They can hop and are furry and warm.
“What good is that?”
It’s very good indeed, because it’s a gift that bunnies are given, a free gift with no strings attached. And every gift that’s givine to anyone is given for a reason. Someday you’ll see why it’s good to hop and to be furry and warm.
“But it’s Christmas and I’m all alone. I don’t have any family at all.”
Of course you do,Â replied the great silver wolf. All the animals in the forest are your family.
And then the wolf disappeared. Barrington had only blinked his eyes and when he looked the wolf was gone.
All the animals in the forest are my family, thought Barrington. It’s good to be a bunny. Bunnies can hop. That’s a gift, a free gift.
On into the night Barrington worked.
First, he found the best stick that he could. Then, hip hop, hippty-hop, to the beavers’ house. He left the stick just outside the door with a note attached to it that read:
“Here’s a good stick for your house. It’s a gift, a free gift. No strings attached. Signed, a member of your family.
It’s a good thing I can hop, he thought, because the snow is getting very deep.
Then Barrington dug and dug. Soon he had gathered enough dead leaves and grass to make the squirrels’ nest warmer.
He laid the grass and leaves just under the oak tree and attached this message: “A gift, a free gift from a member of your family.”
It was late when Barrington finally started home. And what made things even worse was that he knew a blizzard was beginning. Soon Barrington was lost. The wind howled. It was very, very, cold.
“It certainly is cold,” he said outloud. “It’s a good thing I’m so furry. But if I don’t find my way home pretty soon, even I might freeze.”
Suddenly, Barrington’s ears perked up. Through the howling wind he heard, Squeak…Squeak… Then he saw it–a baby field mouse lost in the snow. And the little mouse was crying.
“Hello, little mouse, don’t cry. I’ll be right there.”
Hippty-hop and Barrington was beside the mouse.
I’m lost. I’ll never find my way home and I just know I’m going to freeze, sobbed the mouse.
“You won’t freeze. I’m a bunny and bunnies are very furry and warm. You stay right where you are and I’ll cover you up.”
Barrington laid on top of the little mouse and hugged him tight. The tiny fellow felt himself surrounded by warm fur. He cried for a while, but soon, he fell asleep.
Barrington had only two thoughts that long, cold night. First he thought, It’s good to be a bunny. Bunnies are very furry and warm. And then, when he felt the heart of the tiny mouse beating beneath him he thought: All the animals of the forest are my family.
Next morning, the field mice found their little boy asleep in the snow, snug and warm beneath the furry body of a dead bunny. They were so relieved and excited to find their boy they didn’t even think to ask where the bunny had come from.
And as far as the beavers and squirrels, they still wonder which member of their family left the little gifts for them that Christmas Eve.
After the field mice left, Barrington’s frozen body simply laid in the snow. There was no sound at all except for the howling wind. And no one anywhere in the forest noticed the great silver wolf who came to stand beside that brown, droopy-eared body.
But the wolf did come. And he stood there without moving or saying a word all Christmas day until it was night. And then he disappeared into the forest.
Like the awesome and beautiful silver wolf who appeared to Barrington in his loneliness, there is an awesome and beautiful person who appears to us in our loneliness at Christmas, his name is Jesus, “Immanuel, God with us.” Amid all the busyness and commercial noise of the season, Jesus has come to be God with us. You are not alone this Christmas! Speak your loneliness to Him and make room in your heart for him and he will fill your loneliness with his presence and peace.