Summary: What would the world be like if there was no Christmas and No Jesus? This message was inspired by John Ortberg's message "Who is this Man?"

It’s a Wonderful Life

(Begin with Clip from “It’s a Wonderful Life” scene where George meets Clarence and wishes he had never been born”

It’s a Wonderful Life has consistently been ranked in the top 100 movies of all times, it has been called the number one inspirational film as well as one of the most popular Christmas movies ever produced, and it’s not even about Christmas. It is simply a movie that is set at Christmas time. Even if you’ve never seen the movie you are probably familiar with the phrase: Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.

It’s a Wonderful life is based on a short story, entitled “The Greatest Gift” that was written by Philip Van Doren Ster. The author couldn’t interest a publisher and so he eventually self-published in 1943 and used the story for his Christmas cards. Eventually though the story was seen by director Frank Capra who purchased the rights and the movie was made and released by RKO studios in 1946. It starred Jimmy Stewart who had just returned from serving as a pilot during WW2 and Donna Reed an up and coming actress.

Interestingly enough the movie was considered to be a box office flop because of its high production costs and the stiff competition that was out at the time. I wonder what the more successful movies of that year were?

It would be easy to assume that everyone here has seen the movie but I actually watched it for the first time last year.

So for the three people here today who have never seen the movie here is a synopsis. George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart is a good man who consistently puts the needs of others before his own needs, even to the point of giving up his dreams of travel and becoming an architect in order to run the family building and loan Company following his father’s death. You still with me? The turning point in the movie comes when George’s Uncle Billy accidentally loses $8,000.00 of the company’s money just before the bank examiner arrives to audit the books. Enter the villain, Henry Potter, played by Lionel Barrymore who was best known for playing Scrooge on radio productions of the Christmas Carol. Potter is an evil banker who determines that he will have George thrown in jail and charged with fraud so he can close down the competition.

George feels that he has let everyone down and he decides that he is worth more to his family dead than alive and decides to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. However, all over town people are praying for George and God sends down Angel Second Class Clarence Odbody to intervene. And if Clarence is successful in saving George he will be made a full angel and receive his wings, with the appropriate ringing of a bell of course. Not great theology but a pretty good story.

Just before George jumps off the bridge Clarence does, prompting George to once again put aside his plans in order to help someone else. George jumps in and saves Clarence and that led to the scene that we just watched.

After Clarence grants George his wish, he goes on to show our hero how different the world would have been without his actions. The difference in lives that George had touched and saved, even the difference in how the town of Bedford Falls would have ended up.

George runs back to Clarence and begs him to be allowed to live, his request is granted, all turns out well, a bell rings, an angel gets his wings and George understands that it truly is a Wonderful Life.

A couple of pieces of trivia about the movie, Jimmy Stewart wasn’t the first choice to play George, Cary Grant was. Donna Reed was about fifth in line to play Mary. The names of the taxi driver and policeman in the movie are Bert and Ernie, no relation to the Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street.

The FBI felt that the movie It’s a Wonderful Life was subversive. On May 26, 1947, the FBI issued a memo stating “With regard to the picture “It’s a Wonderful Life”, [redacted] stated in substance that the film represented rather obvious attempts to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a ‘scrooge-type’ so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists. [In] addition, [redacted] stated that, in his opinion, this picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters.”

But that was then and this is now. The theme of the movie is the difference that one life can make. Today is the second Sunday of Advent and we are moving toward the day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. But have you ever wondered what would the world would be like without the birth of Jesus. A couple of months ago I heard John Ortberg preach his sermon “Who is this Man?” and he spoke about the impact that Jesus has had on the world. And I know all of that but again I was amazed and intrigued by the difference that Jesus has made, not just in my life personally but in the world that we live in.

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