“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)
One of the highlights of our road trip through Canada last summer was the Winnie-the-Pooh memorial in White River, Ontario.
We didn’t know there was such a thing prior to this trip. And had it not been that the electric charge station where we needed to plug in our car was nearby, we might not have even noticed. I mean, Winnie is a cartoon character, right? But after connecting our vehicle to the charger, we noticed a number of people gathered around a monument nearby, and our curiosity, along with our desire to work the kinks out of our legs, took us over to see what all of the commotion was about. And there it was: the larger-than-life Winnie-the-Pooh, way up in a tree, clutching the classic pot of honey.
The monument was a photographer’s haven. People– kids and adults alike — were standing in line to have their picture taken beside the monument. After all, who didn’t grow up with books and stories of the fluff-stuffed bear and friends? Besides this, there were beds of beautiful flowers encircling the monument, along with some information panels. In all, I spent quite a bit of time snapping pictures.
I would learn something as well: Winnie was a real bear! And the reason for the monument was that she was found very close to White River!
It was August 24, 1914 when a train pulled into the lumber town bearing men in military uniforms. One of these men, a Lieutenant Harry Colebourn, noticed something interesting as he stepped off the train to stretch his legs: A 7-month-old black bear cub on a leash. Having grown up in England, he had always loved animals. He had, in fact, emigrated to Canada to study veterinary surgery, and after graduation, he had taken a job in Winnipeg with the department of Agriculture. With the onset of the first world war, he had enlisted as a cavalry veterinarian, and he was at the time on his way to a military training camp in Quebec!
Apparently a trapper had killed the cub’s mother, but not wanting to turn the orphaned cub into a bear rug, he had decided to see if he could con anyone into taking her. 20$ later, Lieutenant Colebourn returned to the train with his new pet.
He called her “Winnipeg” in tribute to his hometown. The name was soon shortened to “Winnie”, and she proved to be a wonderful companion. Colebourn trained her to do all kinds of tricks. She would sleep under his cot and she followed him around like a puppy. It wasn’t long before she had won the hearts of all the enlisted men and had become the regiment mascot.
Unfortunately for Winnie, Colebourn was called to the trenches of France. Colebourn gave Winnie to the London Zoo, which had just opened a new bear habitat. He planned to bring her back to Canada when the war was over; however she quickly became a favourite at the zoo. She was so gentle that children were allowed to enter the bear pit to ride on her back or feed her out of their hands. Lieutenant Colebourn realized that Winnie didn’t really belong to him anymore, but to the people of London, and when he returned to Canada, he left Winnie at the zoo.
One of the children who fell in love with Winnie was, of course, Christoper Robin. He was so enthralled with the bear that he changed his teddy bear’s name from “Edward” to “Winnie the Pooh”. This stuffed bear, along with others in Christopher Robin’s collection, served as the inspiration for his father’s most enduring writings: Winnie-the-Pooh.
As I think of this story, it occurs to me that we tend to believe in the “make believe” without even questioning whether their stories are real or not. With the Christmas season nearly upon us, let’s take Santa Claus, for example. Just ask anyone who Santa is! But do they know the real inspiration for Christmas? Are they as familiar with the Christ child as they are with this make-believe “father” of Christmas?
I wish I could say the answer is “yes”; but it isn’t. Just like most of us didn’t know that Winnie was a real bear, many believe that Santa is the real reason for the Holiday season. As we go into this season, let’s look beyond the fairy-tales. For when we do, we will find that the real Reason for the Christmas season is so much better: “Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:7 NIV)
In His love,
Director, Answers2Prayer Ministries