Solemnity of the Lord’s Nativity
25 December 2019
In the book The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, we hear the tale of a toy bunny and his adventures with a little boy. It is the rabbit’s journey to becoming real. The following conversation between the bunny and his friend, Skin Horse, speaks of a process of becoming real…
The word ‘real’ – what does it mean? ‘Actual’; ‘authentic’; ‘not imaginary’; ‘not artificial’ … ‘essential’. To the boy, the velveteen rabbit was real – he existed, not imaginary, essential to his happiness. The unconditional love of the boy for his toy makes the rabbit “real” – at least to the boy.
But this is love … and love makes us real. Love creates and sustains us in the process of becoming our truest selves… Love is the key to understanding the meaning behind this magnificent exchange because this is how we are to God … His love is great, so unconditional and in this love, the breath of divine love, He desires our becoming real. Does this hurt? Sometimes. Does it take a long time? A lifetime. It takes great patience and endurance – and can only happen in us if we see God as He really is – only if God is REAL to us … not imaginary, not artificial… actual and essential.
This is precisely the reason for Jesus’ birth in time … to show a suffering humanity that this God of ours is real. He entered our world to make Himself known to us – by revealing Himself, showing Himself to us He is effectively saying: “I am not imaginary, I am not artificial … I am real.”
St. John tells us that the “Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” … The Greek term for ‘flesh’ is ‘sarx’. It is the same word used by St. Paul when he describes our human nature with all its limitations and weaknesses. It expresses a reality that He is real … He is visible, we can see His face, He walked among us, He was heard, touched, seen … God truly became one of us. Pope Benedict XVI once asked: “what did Jesus bring to us? We still have wars, we still get sick, people still suffer and die … what did Jesus bring? His answer: “He brings us God.”
At the end of the story of the Velveteen Rabbit something truly remarkable happens. When the boy gets sick, the rabbit gets tossed out. Sitting in a pile to be burned, he shed a tear, a real tear. It was in this moment that the rabbit realizes that he wasn’t just real to the boy … the boy was real to him as well … that he loved the boy. And it was in that moment when the rabbit was made REAL … truly real. Love makes us real. Love creates and sustains us in becoming our truest selves … and in this love is an exchange between ourselves and God – like that between the boy and his toy rabbit. And this God of ours, today on the anniversary of His birthday, shows us that He is real … But is He real to us? Does He have a place in our lives? Looking ahead to the New Year and to perhaps a deeper spiritual journey may we give Jesus, our God, a place in our lives and in our hearts where we recognize and acknowledge that He is real to us – actual, not imaginary, not artificial … essential to our lives.