Trains were humming, loudspeakers blaring, porters rushing about shouting at one another, and altogether there was so much noise that Mr Brown, who saw him first, had to tell his wife several times before she understood. ‘A bear? On Paddington station?’
Mrs Brown looked at her husband in amazement. ‘Don’t be silly, Henry. There can’t be!” “Seeing that something was expected of it the bear stood up and politely raised its hat, revealing two black ears. ‘Good afternoon,’ it said, in a small clear voice … The bear puffed out its chest. ‘I’m a very rare sort of bear,’ he replied importantly. ‘There aren’t many of us left where I come from.’ ‘And where is that?’ asked Mrs Brown. The bear looked round carefully before replying. ‘Darkest Peru. I’m not really supposed to be here at all. I’m a stowaway.'” Michael Bond’s marmalade sandwich-loving Peruvian bear first sauntered onto the page in 1958’s A Bear Called Paddington.
Named after the London station at which he was found, Paddington has been delighting generations of children the world over, ever since. Now for the first time he is appearing in the cinema too. Paddington, is a charming and funny little adventure about a very polite and friendly bear who yearns for a new home in London. Harry Potter producer David Heyman says: “Paddington Bear is a universally loved character, treasured for his optimism, his sense of fair play and his perfect manners, and of course for his unintentional talent for comic chaos.”
“Paddington’s very real to me,” says Michael Bond, who incidentally used to wear a duffle coat, “eternally optimistic and always comes back for more, no matter how many times his hopes are dashed,” For him, it’s simply the joy of a little bear who is an outsider getting into scrapes and mishaps – always with the best of intentions – and coming out on top every time.” “Paddington stands up for things, he’s not afraid of going to the top and giving them a hard stare”
Why is Paddington so popular? Nestled deep in our hearts is the longing for a home full of love, understanding and stability. “We all have experienced the good and bad of ‘home’, and the family relationships associated with it. Most of us want home to be about intimate connections. Too many know the pain when home is not that way. The longing to belong is in us all.” Michael Bond, says the inspiration for Paddington came from seeing Jewish evacuee children pass through Reading railway station from London during the Kindertransport of the late 1930s. “They all had a label round their neck with their name and address on, and a little case or package containing all their treasured possessions.
So Paddington, in a sense, was a refugee, and I do think that there’s no sadder sight than refugees.” While Paddington is very definitely for children, there is a message for grownups too. Nicole Kidman, who plays the evil taxidermist, out to stuff Paddington, says, “It’s about, [how] we embrace strangers and people with cultural differences – and that’s an important message right now, particularly for young people.” One of the memorable sayings of Paddington is a challenge for grownups:
“In London nobody’s alike, which means everyone fits in.” The sad thing is they don’t. Xenophobia and racism directed toward immigrants, and even refugees doesn’t stop at the English Channel. Which is why Paddington gives us an insight into the Christmas message. For you see, in God’s eyes, we are all a little like Paddington Bear. We all wear an invisible label that says “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” We were created with love to give love and receive love. But the Bible says, because of evil in the world, like Paddington, we are orphaned, refugees, foreigners, strangers, outsiders, lost, in need of a home. The Bible says,
“remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)
“excluded from citizenship” that means like refugees.
“without God” – orphaned at birth.
“without hope” – vulnerable with no future.
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (Ephesians 2:13)
We were lost but the Lord Jesus came that first Christmas to find us, rescue us, to adopt us, bring us home and give us a secure future in God’s family.
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:14-17)
We learn here three wonderful truths that summarize the Christmas message:
1. God the Father adopts us into his family
“…the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)
God’s choice to adopt us into his family is one of the precious truths of the Bible. The story is told of a little girl teased in the playground because she was adopted. One day she responded, “At least my parents definitely chose me. They knew all about me and still chose to be my parents.”
An adopted child is special because they have been chosen. God knows all about us, all the things we have ever done, all the things we have failed to do. God knows all about us and yet still wants to adopt us into his family. He loves us so much he sent his son to save us. God the Father adopts us into his family.
2. God the Spirit assures us we are children of God
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:16)
There are no orphans in God’s family. You cannot be a Christian without also being a member of Gods family. Paddington’s proverb certainly applies to God’s family, “In [church] nobody’s alike, which means everyone fits in.” We are all unique and different but we are a family and therefore we are here to support one another as brothers and sisters. The Holy Spirit indwells us, assures us, equips us and binds us together into a unique family of many nationalities – even “darkest Peru”. When we trust in Jesus, God the Father adopts us into his family. And God the Spirit assures us we are children of God.
3. God the Son shares his inheritance with us
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17)
In the ancient world the idea of adoption had profound significance. An adopted son was someone deliberately chosen by his adoptive father to perpetuate his name and inherit his estate. They had an even more privileged status than the natural children. When we trust in Jesus we literally become co-heirs with King Jesus – we will reign with him in eternity.
In his book, Knowing God, Jim Packer asks:
“Do I, as a Christian, understand myself? Do I know my own real identity? My own real destiny? I am a child of God. God is my Father; heaven is my home; every day is one day nearer. My Saviour is my brother; every Christian is my brother too. Say it over and over to yourself first thing in the morning,
last thing at night, as you wait for the bus, any time when your mind is free, and ask that you may be enabled to live as one who knows it is all utterly and completely true. For this is the Christian’s secret of – a happy life? – yes, certainly, but we have something both higher and profounder to say. This is the Christian’s secret of a Christian life, and a God-honouring life… May this secret become fully yours, and fully mine.”
If you know you have been adopted, that you are a child of God, then let me ask you, who will you share that love and joy and peace with this Christmas? Who might you adopt, even if just for Christmas Day? How about serving in the Christmas Kitchen? Or the Food Bank or Besom? Or maybe find out about East to West’s Assisted Lodging scheme that helps teenagers in need of a home. But if maybe tonight, you are feeling unloved, unwanted, like an orphan, or a refugee? Waiting to be adopted? Then take this promise of God for yourself:
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13)
Receive Jesus tonight and you will have the assurance of being adopted into God’s family. You will begin to get to know God as your Father in Heaven. God’s Spirit will indwell you and assure you of your special place within the family of God. You can know for sure that you have forgiveness of sin, eternal life and a glorious future with God, forever and ever.
And ever and ever, and ever and ever, Amen.
Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to earth that first Christmas. Thank you that He paid the punishment for my sins by dying on the cross. And thank you that He rose again to prove we have everlasting life. I place my trust in Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. Come into my life and assure me I am your adopted child. Help me discover my place in your family and help me share your love with others too. In Jesus name, Amen.
If you prayed that prayer for the first time tell someone.
And by the way, Paddington might never have existed if Michael Bond had done his Christmas shopping earlier. Before his fictional version appeared on a page, Paddington existed as a real teddy bear. Bond says on Christmas Eve 1956, he saw a teddy bear “left on a shelf in a London shop and felt sorry for it”. He adopted the bear and took it home as a present for his wife Brenda. They lived near Paddington. And that is where the story all began. If Jesus has adopted you into the family of God, just maybe, someone will write a story about you too, for “the adventure is about to begin!”
 James Packer, Knowing God (Hodder), p. 260.