Summary: As the seasons change, many of us find that the annual arrival of Christmas characterises the passing of yet another year. For more info: http://www.philotrust.com
SermonCentral Editor’s note: J.John, a Greek Cypriot, has been described as "The Billy Graham of Great Britain," speaking to more than 300,000 people in person each year. He has authored 21 books and has more than one million copies in circulation. You may learn more about his ministry at: http://www.philotrust.com/
As the seasons change, many of us find that the annual arrival of Christmas characterises the passing of yet another year. For some, Christmas marks the close of a year brimming with happy and joyful memories whilst others remember only sadness and disappointment. Perhaps dreams for the past year were never realised and last year’s resolutions seem nothing but a distant past.
Glancing at the festive period television guide, a film that our eyes will certainly glimpse is ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, first made in 1946. The highly acclaimed film directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, remains one of today’s most popular Christmas films. Although those of us who have seen the film would unwaveringly class it as a ‘feel-good’ movie, the first part of the film comprises a far from ‘perfect’ story. The scenes trace the darkness of George’s (the leading character) mood as his mounting personal and financial troubles plunge him to the brink of ruin and into an abyss of despair and suicide. This is a story about broken dreams.
If someone were to ask us if we had a ‘Wonderful Life’, what would our response be?
In fact, how would we define a ‘Wonderful Life’? Perhaps one filled with material gain, financial prosperity or a successful and ever thriving career? Maybe a life packed with adventure, enriched by frequent and luxurious visits to far-off distant lands?
Yet, realising that another Christmas has come swiftly upon us, do we wonder if there is something more? More than we have yet to experience or discover? Is there some other ingredient to life that without which, we simply cannot call our own life ‘Wonderful’?
The working title of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ was originally ‘The Greatest Gift’. What ‘greatest gift’ at Christmas could possibly be enough to shatter our previous dulled experiences and reveal to us something new for the years to come?
At Christmas, we remember a man, born in a Bethlehem stable, who promises us exactly this. Indeed, Jesus Christ offers the gift of a ‘Wonderful’ Life. Jesus told us “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness” The Bible John 10:10.
JUST AN ORDINARY LIFE IN BEDFORD FALLS?
‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ tracks the fortunes (or misfortunes) of George Bailey, the unsung, beloved hero of Bedford Falls, whose every attempt to leave what he perceives as a humdrum existence in this small town is stunted for various reasons. As a child, George was selfless, risking his own life (and losing his hearing in one ear) to save his younger brother who fell into a hole in the ice. As an adult, he gave up his dreams of travelling the world and going to college to stay at home and manage the Bailey Building and Loan Society after his father had passed away. Despite knowing that he had been forced into a job that he never wished to pursue, George is hard working and generous-hearted. During his career, he is offered a business proposition promising an impressive wage, ‘the best house in town’ and holidays to Europe from his archrival Potter who seeks to buy George’s business and thereby gain a town monopoly. However, George rejects these offers because of his principles and in respect for his deceased father’s occupation.
Noble as his decisions seem to an objective audience, George becomes increasingly embittered, hardened and angry. He never leaves Bedford Falls, is married, has two children and watches his friends achieve ‘great things’. Meanwhile, George sees only wasted opportunities and regrets everything around him, feeling that life is passing him by.
This resentment turns to desperation when George’s absent-minded and eccentric uncle misplaces $8,000 leaving the company in a hopeless situation. His business rival Potter now has a major advantage and George feels doomed to failure with bankruptcy and a prison sentence seeming imminent. After a storming rage at home where George pushes his wife and children away, he gets hopelessly drunk at a local bar where he is punched and scorned by a schoolteacher’s husband and left bewildered, lost and alone.
LOST AND BROKEN DREAMS
I think that many of us can relate to the character of George Bailey in this film. At the climax of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, George looks back at his life as little more than wasted potential. His huge boyhood dreams to become an adventurer have amounted to nothing, whilst his vision to escape the mould of his family’s seemingly insignificant small-town traditions and become something significant just never materialised. On Christmas Eve, after mentally scanning his life George honestly believes that he is truly a waste of space and he contemplates suicide on the edge of a bridge. Bitter, resentful and angry, he slumps his head in his hands and prays to God.