Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
OUR CONTINUOUS CHRISTIAN WITNESS OF TRUE CHRISTMAS PEACE AND LOVE: TO BE LIKE JESUS AND BARRINGTON
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
24 DECEMBER 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (Genesis 6:20)
“Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind shall come to you to keep them alive.”
The story of “Barrington Bunny” that we read in our youth story reflects the true Christmas message.
There was no mention of Santa Claus, but there was the giving of gifts.
There was no mention of the birth of the baby Jesus, yet He was born in the heart of Barrington.
In fact, there was no mention of God, or of Jesus Christ, or even of the Holy Spirit; yet we see Him reflected through the lives of the wolf and Barrington.
Barrington was lonely, and he desperately wanted to be part of a family and to be loved.
He needed to know that he had some value, and he was seeking, but he didn’t understand.
Wolves eat bunnies!
Wolves don’t deliver a Christmas message.
Wolves don’t bring peace and joy and love with them when they go to see bunnies; that isn’t being a wolf in this fallen world.
Yet this wolf did just that.
This wolf has a changed life much like that of the apostle Paul’s. Note the similarity as we look at Acts 22:3-10, and listen to Paul talking about his conversion.
3. “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, just as you all are today.
4. And I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons,
5. as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished.
Paul was acting as a zealous Jew, doing what he thought was right before God, or more correctly as being right according the teachers of the Temple, but not according to the creation and heavenly will of God.
And the same was probably true of the wolf in our story.
He went out and killed other animals that he might eat, for that is the way of wolves, isn’t it?
But there came a day when that all changed, and he didn’t kill anymore, just as it happened with Paul.
6. "And it came about that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me,
7. and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ' Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?'
8. "And I answered, 'Who art Thou, Lord?' And He said to me, 'I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.'
9. "And those who were with me beheld the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me.
10. "And I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Arise and go on into Damascus; and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.'
And Paul did just that.
Paul’s life was totally changed.
He no longer desired to continue doing the things he had been doing.
He did what God wanted him to do.
And the same was true of the wolf. He no longer had to kill for food.
Just as we don't need to kill for food, or have other kill for us, for there is more than an abundance of plant foods to eat.
The Lord must have supplied his needs in other ways.
He didn’t even eat the carcass of the dead bunny, but instead guarded it.
The wolf acted totally out of character.
The wolf acted in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, just as Paul did and just as each of us should.
And if we don’t act in this manner, changed from the ways of the world, then we are liars.
But Barrington believed the wolf because of that changed life.
What about us and what we say?
What do you think the world hears and says?
“Don’t tell me you’re a Christian and that you’re born again, for I don’t believe you. I also hear the other things you say, and I see the things you do. Don’t tell me any more of your lies. I don’t believe you.”
But if our entire life is changed, as the wolf’s and Paul's was, then others will believe, as did Barrington and the people who heard and saw Paul.
And then Barrington went off and did according to Jesus’ words.
Listen to what Jesus tells us in John 15:10-14 –
10. "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love.
Isn’t this also the same thing that we are told about Santa Claus? Doesn’t he come to see who has been naughty or nice?
But the key is not what Santa is looking for in us; it is what Jesus is looking for, and that is our love for Him and for each other, and the whole of God's creation.
11. "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
12. "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.
13. "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
14. "You are My friends, if you do what I command you.
And Jesus did just that. He laid down His life for each and every one of us, so that we might live.
And Barrington laid down his life, so that the baby mouse might live.
That is the kind of love that Jesus wants us to have for everyone.
And since Jesus didn’t remain dead, but arose again into everlasting life, so also will all who die in the love of Jesus Christ:
Those whose lives are changed like the great silver wolf, and tell others of the good news of Jesus Christ, through both their words and deeds;
And those who just live a quiet life, not desiring notoriety, but giving of themselves, even to death, as did Barrington.
It is these who will live forever with our Lord.
But our understanding does not end here.
Do you remember what the squirrel and the beaver said about the difference between themselves and Barrington?
Barrington couldn’t climb trees, and he couldn’t swim under water; but he could hop, and neither the squirrels nor the beavers could do that.
But they also said that they didn’t know anything about being furry as Barrington was furry, yet each of them also had fur.
Part of our true Christian love is being able to see the things we have in common, and not our differences.
And this same unconditional love should be extended to all the animals, too
All of us have hair, but some of us have more hair than others, and our hair is not all the same color. In fact, some of us deliberately change our hair color.
Can we still love each other in spite of these differences?
There is really no difference between us because of our skin color, either.
Listen to what we are told in Romans 3:21-23 –
21. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
22. even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;
23. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
God doesn’t look at what we look like; for He created us and made us all the way He wants us to look.
But God looks at our actions, our way of life; and here we are told that we have all sinned: we all have done things that we were not supposed to have done; and thus God sees us as being alike.
Now note what we are told in Galatians 3:26-28 –
26. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
27. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
28. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
So, I guess if we want the peace and joy of Christmas, we are going to have to set apart our differences and give each other the sincere love that Barrington and Jesus gave.