Most people love Frank Capra’s classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life and I’m certainly one of them. You finish a viewing with a deeply satisfying sense that your life really does matter. As a pastor it intrigues me to ask, “Is this story Christian or not?” The answer turns out to be both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
The strongest Christian idea is the central theme that Your life has purpose. “Each man’s life touches so many other lives, and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” says the angel Clarence to George Bailey. Without George around, so many things would have been different. We learn that Bedford Falls, for example, would have been Pottersville. George saved his brother’s life when Harry fell through the ice. Harry, in turn would become a war hero, saving the lives of others.
Building on this idea of purpose our lives should also be viewed as a gift. The angel Clarence notes, “At exactly 10:45 p.m. tonight, Earth time, that man will be seriously thinking of throwing away God’s greatest gift.” The Bible says in Hebrews 2:7,8 “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honour and put everything under their feet.”
So what ideas or themes don’t line up with true Christian faith? The movie conveys that it is entirely up to George Bailey alone to choose the right thing and follow through. If George hadn’t corrected the mistake in the medications when he worked as an assistant, old Mr. Gower would have died.
Jesus, in contrast, says “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” The great news to every one of us who is exhausted from trying hard to do the right thing on our own is that Jesus offers to give us the power to follow through.
I can’t perfectly follow through on every promise, can’t serve every opportunity with enthusiasm on my own – I need the power that Christ offers. When you watch this classic this year I hope you rejoice with George Bailey as he finds that his life really did have purpose and consider what would be possible in your own life with the power of Christ working through you.
All the best,
Pastor Darin Phillips
Oceanview Community Church
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