Christmas: Larger than Life Santa

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Sometimes Santa gets a bad rap from “religious types.” Not so with G.K. Chesterton.

What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it.

It happened in this way. As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped make them. I had not even been good–far from it. and the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me.

What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea. Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void. Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers, now, I thank him for stars and street faces and wine and the great sea. Once I though it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic good will.

–G.K. Chesterton in The Table 2

Merry Christmas
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The Difference Christmas Has Made

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What a difference has Christmas made? The story, The Rabbi’s Gift, by Fancis Dorff, shows us.

There was a famous monastery which had fallen on very hard times. In times past its many buildings were filled with young monks and its big church resounded with the singing of the chant, but now it was deserted. People no longer came there to be nourished by prayer. A handful of old monks shuffled through the cloisters and praised their God with heavy hearts.

On the edge of the monastery woods, an old rabbi had built a little hut. He would come there from time to time to fast and pray. No one ever spoke to him, but whenever he appeared, the word would be passed from monk to monk: “The rabbi walks in the woods.” And, for as long as he was there, the monks would feel sustained by his prayerful presence.

One day the abbot decided to visit the rabbi and to open his heart to him. so, after the morning Eucharist, he set out through the woods. As he approached the hut, the abbot saw the rabbi standing in the doorway, his arms outstretched in welcome. It was as though he had been waiting there for some time. The two embraced like long-lost brothers. They stepped back and just stood there, smiling at one another with smiles their faces could hardly contain.

After a while the rabbi motioned the abbot to enter. In the middle of the room was a wooden table with the Scriptures open on it. They sat there for a moment, in the presence of the Book. Then the rabbi began to cry. The abbot could not contain himself. He covered his face with his hands and he began to cry too. For the first time in his life, he cried his heart out. The two men sat there like lost children, filling the hut with their sobs and wetting the wood of the table with their tears.

After the tears had ceased to flow and all was quiet again, the rabbi lifted his head. “You and your brothers are serving God with heavy hearts,” he said. “You have come to ask a teaching of me. I will give you a teaching, but you can only repeat it once. After that, no one must ever say it aloud again.”

The rabbi looked straight at the abbot and said, “The Messiah is among you.”

For a while, all was silent. then the rabbi said, “Now you must go.”

The abbot left without a word and without ever looking back.

The next morning, the abbot called his monks together in the chapter room. He told them he had received a teaching form “the rabbi who walks in the woods” and that his teaching was never to be spoken aloud. Then he looked at each of his brothers and said, “The rabbi said that one of us is the Messiah.”

The monks were startled by this saying. “What could it mean?” they asked themselves. “Is brother John the Messiah? Or Father Matthew? Or Brother Thomas? Am I the Messiah? What could this mean?”

They were all deeply puzzled by the rabbi’s teaching. But no one ever mentioned it again.

As time went by, the monks began to treat one another with a very special reverence. There was a gentle, wholehearted, human quality about them now which was hard to describe but easy to notice. They lived with one another as men who had finally found something. But they prayed the Scriptures together as men who were always looking for something. Occasionally visitors found themselves deeply moved by the life of these monks. Before long, people were coming from far and wide to be nourished by the prayer life of the monks and the young men were asking, once again, to become part of the community.

In those days, the rabbi no longer walked in the woods. His hut had fallen into ruins. But, somehow or other, the old monks who had taken his teaching to heart still felt sustained by his prayerful presence.

Christmas, the birth of Jesus, the coming of the Messiah, the coming of God in human flesh, made a difference in human history. Like the coming of the Messiah to the monastery fallen on hard times, the coming of the Messiah into the world has made a difference in all our relationships.

The coming of the Messiah among us has made a difference in our relationship with God. The birth of Jesus showed us that God loves us so much that he wants to be with us.  Jesus is called “Immanuel,” which means God is with us. The birth of Christ showed us once and for all that we are not alone in this universe. God is with us. The birth of Jesus showed us that God loves us so much that he would not let our sin and failure stand in the way between us and him. Jesus is called “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

The coming of the Messiah among us has made a difference in our relationships with each other. As knowing the Messiah was among them changed the way the monks treated each other, so knowing Jesus is among us changes the way we treat each other as we practice his presence among us.

Imagine how different this world would be without Christmas, without Christ, without the Messiah among us!

Christmas makes a difference when we open our hearts to the Messiah among us.
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Christmas:He is among us!

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The story of  The Rabbi’s Gift, by Francis Dorff, reminds us of the purspose of Christmas.

There was a famous monastery which had fallen on very hard times. In times past its many buildings were filled with young monks and its big church resounded with the singing of the chant, but now it was deserted. People no longer came there to be nourished by prayer. A handful of old monks shuffled through the cloisters and praised their God with heavy hearts.

On the edge of the monastery woods, an old rabbi had built a little hut. He would come there from time to time to fast and pray. No one ever spoke to him, but whenever he appeared, the word would be passed from monk to monk: “The rabbi walks in the woods.” And, for as long as he was there, the monks would feel sustained by his prayerful presence.

One day the abbot decided to visit the rabbi and to open his heart to him. so, after the morning Eucharist, he set out through the woods. As he approached the hut, the abbot saw the rabbi standing in the doorway, his arms outstretched in welcome. It was as though he had been waiting there for some time. The two embraced like long-lost brothers. They stepped back and just stood there, smiling at one another with smiles their faces could hardly contain.

After a while the rabbi motioned the abbot to enter. In the middle of the room was a wooden table with the Scriptures open on it. They sat there for a moment, in the presence of the Book. Then the rabbi began to cry. The abbot could not contain himself. He covered his face with his hands and he began to cry too. For the first time in his life, he cried his heart out. The two men sat there like lost children, filling the hut with their sobs and wetting the wood of the table with their tears.

After the tears had ceased to flow and all was quiet again, the rabbi lifted his head. “You and your brothers are serving God with heavy hearts,” he said. “You have come to ask a teaching of me. I will give you a teaching, but you can only repeat it once. After that, no one must ever say it aloud again.”

The rabbi looked straight at the abbot and said, “The Messiah is among you.”

For a while, all was silent. then the rabbi said, “Now you must go.”

The abbot left without a word and without ever looking back.

The next morning, the abbot called his monks together in the chapter room. He told them he had received a teaching form “the rabbi who walks in the woods” and that his teaching was never to be spoken aloud. Then he looked at each of his brothers and said, “The rabbi said that one of us is the Messiah.”

The monks were startled by this saying. “What could it mean?” they asked themselves. “Is brother John the Messiah? Or Father Matthew? Or Brother Thomas? Am I the Messiah? What could this mean?”

They were all deeply puzzled by the rabbi’s teaching. But no one ever mentioned it again.

As time went by, the monks began to treat one another with a very special reverence. There was a gentle, wholehearted, human quality about them now which was hard to describe but easy to notice. They lived with one another as men who had finally found something. But they prayed the Scriptures together as men who were always looking for something. Occasionally visitors found themselves deeply moved by the life of these monks. Before long, people were coming from far and wide to be nourished by the prayer life of the monks and the young men were asking, once again, to become part of the community.

In those days, the rabbi no longer walked in the woods. His hut had fallen into ruins. But, somehow or other, the old monks who had taken his teaching to heart still felt sustained by his prayerful presence.

At Christmas, God came to be among us, to share our joys and sorrows, and change the way we treat each other.
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Christmas: The Real Meaning

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In this season of sales and Santa, Barrington Bunny reminds us of the real meaning of Christmas.

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?

“No.”

What are you then?

“A bunny.”

A bunny?

“Yes.”

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.

“Barrington Bunny.”

There was a long pause and then a shiny beaver head broke the water.

Hello Barrington.

“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, 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.

The image of Barrington Bunny dying to save the field mouse reminds us of the real meaning of Christmas: Jesus was born to be our Savior. He saved us through his death.
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Christmas:The Best Gift to Give

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Wondering what to give this Christmas? The story of “Barrington Bunny,” from The Way of the Wolf, by Martin Bell, suggests the best gift to give.

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?

“No.”

What are you then?

“A bunny.”

A bunny?

“Yes.”

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.

“Barrington Bunny.”

There was a long pause and then a shiny beaver head broke the water.

Hello Barrington.

“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, 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.

The best gift to give this Christmas is yourself!

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Christmas: Connecting by Serving Others

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In the last post we said that the story of “Barrington Bunny,” from The Way of the Wolf, by Martin Bell, tells us we are not alone at Christmas. Through the birth of Jesus, God has come to be with us.

But how do we connect with the presence of God come to be with us? Ponder that question as you read the story again or for the first time.

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?

“No.”

What are you then?

“A bunny.”

A bunny?

“Yes.”

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.

“Barrington Bunny.”

There was a long pause and then a shiny beaver head broke the water.

Hello Barrington.

“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, 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.

When Barrington connected with the great silver wolf his connection caused him to serve others. His service of the other animals connected him to them and to the wolf. So too, when we serve others at Christmas we connect with God and those he challenges us to serve: the lonely, the poor, the hurting. And when we are connected to God and to others through service we experience the presence of God and the true meaning of Christmas.

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Christmas: You are not alone!

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For some people, Christmas can be a very lonely time. People grieving the death of a spouse or the loss of a mate through divorce often feel painfully lonely at Christmas. Seniors living in nursing homes sometimes find little cheer in the holidays that remind them of their separation from loved ones. 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,  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?

“No.”

What are you then?

“A bunny.”

A bunny?

“Yes.”

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.

“Barrington Bunny.”

There was a long pause and then a shiny beaver head broke the water.

Hello Barrington.

“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, 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.

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