In my last several blogs I have mentioned the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. The background should sound familiar. It was directed by Frank Capra (1897-1991) and released in 1946. It has become a holiday classic, seen by many. The storyline revolves around George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart (1908-1997). He wants to see the world but is shackled by responsibility to his hometown, Bedford Falls. George doesn’t have a clue the difference he has made to the people in his life. You know the scene.
Absent minded Uncle Billy has lost $8,000 of the Bailey Building and Loan’s money. On cue, the bank examiner shows up and George beings to panic. Without success, George looks everywhere. With his shattered dreams in his hands, he decides to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. He is saved by his guardian angel, angel second class, Clarence Oddbody, played by Henry Travis (1874-1965). He is the one who grants George’s wish. He shows George what his world would be like if he had never been born. The picture is not pretty. His wife, played by Donna Reed (1921-1986), never married so his children were never born. His mother struggles to survive. His brother, Harry, drowns so others he saved during the war also die. Uncle Billy, played by Thomas Mitchell (1892-1962) is institutionalized. His town, Bedford Falls, was run by his enemy, Mr. Potter, played by Lionel Barrymore (1878-1954). It is renamed Potterville. Considering, this new information George begins to realize the difference he has made on his world. With nowhere else to go he returns to the bridge. George begins to pray and asks for his old life back. His request is granted. He happily returns home knowing he is going to be arrested. All this sets up the final scene.
When he returns home, he has a new appreciation for his old life. He embraces his children and looks for his wife, Mary. She is the one who saves the day. Mary has told the whole town George is in trouble. They respond by showing up at the Bailey home. Each one brings cash and openly expresses what George means to them. Brother Harry has the line that summarizes the whole movie. He lifts his glass and says, “To George Bailey, the richest man in town!” This is the question I must ask you on this Christmas Eve. How rich are you?
Can you relate to George Bailey? When you were young you had dreams of seeing the world. You longed for fame and fortune. Over the years, your dreams of greatness were replaced by a heavy dose of reality. People became dependent on you and your money was limited. You long to do the right thing, but the right thing seems unclear. One day you woke up and your youth was gone, replaced by disappointments and regret. You watch the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, and you find yourself relating to George Bailey, who failed to see the impact he had on others. How close am I? Your name is not George Bailey, but you are George Bailey? Do you have a few regrets? What part of your life do you take for granted?
In this blog, I want to give you some pastoral advice. I would encourage you to appreciate everything thing about your life. You have been blessed in many ways. You have a good life. Don’t be like George Bailey, who took his good life for granted. Embrace everything about your life. Appreciate your relationships. Appreciate your opportunities. Most of all, appreciate your Savior. It is those three things I want examine in this blog.
Never take your relationships for granted! How would your life change if one of your loved one was suddenly gone? There are people in Idaho who are forced to answer that question. You know the story. In the early hours of November 13, 2022, four University of Idaho students were stabbed to death in their off-campus housing. The murder of still at large and the community of Moscow is in shock. The investigation continues and everyone is hoping to solve the crime. I have found myself praying for the parents of the four slain students. My heart goes out to everyone involved, including the parents. If this story has taught us anything, then it has taught us to appreciate all the relationships in their lives. How are those parents going to celebrate Christmas without their young? How are they ever going to celebrate Christmas again?
We spend Christmas with the most important people in our lives. How would your life change if one of them was suddenly gone? Never take your relationships for granted!
Never take your opportunities for granted! I have always been thankful I was born in America. It is still the land of opportunity. If you can’t make it here, then you can’t make it anywhere. How would your life change if you were forced to live in another country? The answer is a great deal. Years ago, I had to opportunity to travel to Haiti. I was part of a mission team who observed the work of a mission project, who was attempting to reforest part of that nation. That trip changed me. I have never been to a place that had less opportunity, then Haiti. It is only a two-hour flight between Miami and Port-au-Prince. However, it is like I was on two different planets. The contrast was shocking. Did you know Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere? According to Statista, the average Haitian makes $1420 annually. That is $3.90 a day. How do you survive on a $3.90 a day? The Haitian people were great. They were gracious and hard working. Their children pierced my heart. I like to think they have a bright future, but I can’t. They live in a country of no. There is no public school system. There is no postal system because there are no addresses. There is no form of health care. There is no electricity and no clean water to drink. There are no jobs. I really don’t know what happened to all the money after the earthquake in 2010, but I know there is no opportunity in Haiti for a better life.
To my American readers let me ask, have you ever wondered why you were born in the United States of America? Did we win the eternal power ball? You could have been born in Haiti. You could have been born a legless Russian orphan. You could have been born in North Korea. You could have been born in Africa or you could have been born in Syria. You know it is true. America has her issues. We have some work to do. This is not a perfect place, but it is still the land of opportunity. Don’t ever take your American citizenship for granted. Don’t take your relationships for granted! Never take your opportunities for granted!
Never take your take your Savior for granted! How would your life change if Jesus had never been born? This is the good news. Jesus was born. You know the story. A census was taken every fourteen years by the Romans. The population was counted for two reasons. The first was military service. The second was taxation. Every male was required to return to their hometown. Joseph returned to Bethlehem, the House of Bread. It would have taken him ten days to make that eighty miles trip between Nazareth and Bethlehem. You can drive it easily in two hours. In Joseph’s case, it must have taken him longer. He was traveling with a young pregnant woman, Mary. When they finally arrived, they saw nothing but “No Vacancy” signs. They best they can do is accept an offer to sleep in the barn. Surrounded by animals, the baby is born. Everyone is surprised they didn’t name him Joseph. Instead, they name him Jesus. The name is important because it summarizes his entire life. Jesus means “God is Salvation.” You know how the story ends. Thirty-three years later Jesus would be executed. It is upsetting, but it was all part of God’s plan for the salvation of the world. Jesus lived the perfect life, so he was the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. Never take Jesus for granted. Without Jesus, there is no hope of salvation.
When you have Jesus, you have three things. First, when you Jesus you have forgiveness. We are all sinners. Second, when you have Jesus, you have hope. You have hope for a better world and the hope of heaven, itself. Third, when you have Jesus, you have purpose. You are more than a consumer. You are more than some point on some demographic chart. You are a child of God. Never take your Savior for granted.
Are you like George Bailey? Are you taking your life for granted? Are you taking their life for granted? I hope the answer is no! I hope you appreciate everything about your life. I would encourage you to never take your relationships for granted. How would your life change if one of your loved ones was suddenly gone? I would encourage you to never take your opportunities for granted. We live in a great country. America is still a land of opportunity. I would encourage you to never take your Savior for granted. He is our only hope of salvation. The angels said it best: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. May God bless you during this sacred season.