"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit to the Rocking Horse one day, when they were lying side by side near the playroom door, just before Grandma came to tidy the room.
"Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Rocking Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Rocking Horse, for he was always truthful. "But when you are real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Rocking Horse. "You become. It takes a long time.
That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be kept carefully. Generally, by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.
But these things don't matter at all, because once you are real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
This story from the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams (1922), reminds us that love makes us real. St Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians that we may be able to speak even the language of angels, to prophecy, to know all manner of things and even have the faith to move mountains. We may give away everything we have to feed the poor, even sacrifice ourselves, but without love we are nothing.
Today we experience the love shown to us by our family, our friends, our neighbours, the person who happened to call us at just the right time, the WhatsApp message that gave us the encouragement we needed, people we may never meet or know working hard for us in the NHS, supermarkets, utilities, security and transport. As St Paul reminds us,
“Love is patient and is kind. Love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud, doesn’t behave itself inappropriately, doesn’t seek its own way, is not provoked, takes no account of evil; doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13 verses 4-7, WEB)
This, is REAL love.
A familiar arrangement of the Beatles song, Real Love:
The reflections here are written by members of our congregation.