Earlier on this year, I had the chance to watch two recent children's films, Paddington 2 and Christopher Robin. Both films use famous actors alongside the computer-generated bears. At one level these are just wonderfully filmed portrayals of the sort of scripted adventures that authors Michael Bond and AA Milne might well have written to entertain a new generation of children. Certainly the young family members that I was with at the cinema were in turn, enthralled by the heroes and villains on show. But are there perhaps, for the discerning teenage or adult viewers, hints of Gospel truths which also emerge? I believe that there are.
Some parallels can certainly be drawn between the unexpected arrival of far-travelled and luggage-labelled, emigrant Paddington Bear on a London railway platform with the birth of the Son of God to a virgin in a Bethlehem stable. Paddington is quite different from the people that he lives among and yet his gentle infectious positivity seems to inspire transformation in their outlook on life. We know that Jesus' healing ministry likewise led to people having a richer and more complete appreciation for life. Like Jesus, Paddington also finds himself wrongfully arrested while the bear's very vulnerability, caring words and kind actions soon melt the hardest of hearts - even that of a widely feared prisoner called Knuckles. One of the criminals being crucified next to Jesus along with a centurion observing the public deaths, both recognised that they were in the presence of the Divine. There's even a hint of 'resurrection' in the film where Paddington, having been seemingly trapped in a watery grave, is suddenly released and duly survives the ordeal.
Paddington 2  certainly features a Bear who illustrates many Christian virtues. In his determination to save up enough money to buy a special book from an antique shop for his Aunt Lucy's 100th Birthday, Paddington cuts hair at a salon, washes pets and even cleans skyscraper windows! Hard work is often praised in the Scriptures. Looking for the good in other people with the belief that they can change for the better is another Paddington characteristic which is shown even when facing a long-term prison sentence alongside 'hardened' criminals. Jesus calls His followers to be peace-makers. Being actively kind to others is second nature to Paddington and he seems to be a good model for the Holy Spirit's 'fruit' as listed by Paul in Galations 5. Paddington is remarkably contented with who he is, remarking on one occasion: 'I'll never be like other people, but that's alright because I'm a bear'. A Christian's contentment should come from the knowledge that they are uniquely made and have all the gifts and abilities that are needed to fully serve and please their Maker above.
Gospels truths equally abound in the Christopher Robin  film. In this film, Christopher Robin is an adult in post-war London but stress at work has resulted in him becoming increasingly isolated from his wife and daughter ... and indeed, from any joy in life itself. After a chance meeting in a London park, down-in-the-dumps Christopher accompanies his boyhood companion Pooh Bear back to Hundred Acre Wood where he meets old friends like Eeyore, Tigger and Piglet. During their newly experienced adventures, Christopher re-discovers old pleasures and eventually returns to his Family and workplace as a completely changed and better man.
With Pooh's help, Christopher learns how to take pleasure in the simple things in life. 'There's more to life than balloons and honey', Christopher asserts ... to which Pooh provocatively replies, 'Are you sure?' In AA Milne's books, it was, you may recall, a little made-up game called 'Poohsticks' that epitomizes this approach to life. Jesus similarly called His followers to adopt a minimalist lifestyle and to appreciate the simple things in life. We know from Milne's stories that getting along with everybody else is a constant challenge for Pooh, especially after Tigger's arrival - but the Bear tries to see the good in everyone. When Piglet famously asks him, 'How do you spell love?' Pooh perceptively tells him: 'You don't spell it, you feel it!' Christian disciples are constantly urged by New Testament writers, to love other people and to do all we can to promote peace and harmony.
Yet perhaps the most striking message of the film for me personally was the re-occurring theme of the importance of taking time out. For Pooh, doing nothing involves 'just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering.' In an increasingly stress-full world, time off and time out is vital for our physical and mental well-being. As Pooh also rightly points out: 'Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something!' It was for this reason of course, that the Sabbath rules were set out and why regular holy days ['holidays'] were considered to be vital in maintaining good health. In such ways, Paddington 2 and Christopher Robin can be more than children's entertainment films. For they can remind us of Gospel truths!
God Bless - Your Minister and Friend - Martyn