We have learned the lesson of child-like faith from Charlie Brown; several lessons from Mr. Grinch such as we can all get Grinchy once in a while and that no one is beyond God's redemption; and we have learned to live in the present with Mr. Scrooge, so what is it that we can learn from George Bailey?
The 1946 film, It's A Wonderful Life, is top shelf when it comes to memorable Christmas movies. It is still shone every year on local television stations and at theaters. Director Frank Capra rated this film his favorite work. It was nominated for five Academy Awards and is rated by the American Film Institute one of the 100 best American films ever made.
If you are familiar with the film you know the story of George Bailey, a middle aged man who has sacrificed his personal ambitions and desires for the sake of other people. When the film begins we see a despondent George ready to take his own life by jumping off a bridge. Enter in Clarence Odbody, angel second class. Clarence and his boss, give George a gift most people will never have; the chance to see what life would be like if he had never been born.
The way the movie progresses we all begin to realize, and so does George, that his life made a difference in so many other lives. His seemingly simple acts of sacrifice made a difference in the lives of family, friends, employers and strangers. If George Bailey had never been born his mother would have become an old bitter woman, his brother would have died when he fell through the ice which meant many men in the war died because he wasn't there to save them. The ripple effect of George having never been born was far reaching.
Sometimes when I watch this movie, I feel sad. Obviously, there are many moments in this film that bring tears to my eyes. It is a powerfully moving tale. But my sadness comes from a more selfish source, my own feelings of inadequacy. I am no George Bailey.
The obvious lesson that we can take away from this movie is that our lives matter. Our lives, no matter how seemingly unimportant we feel, do touch other people's lives. That being said, what makes me sad when I watch the movie is the thought that maybe I could have done a better job touching other people in a positive way. You see, it is not just the positive things we do that affect others, but the bad things as well.
Looking at George, he doesn't seem to have any bad sides and it seems that he rarely ever made bad choices. We know that George was like us. He had good day's and bad days. We can glean that much from what is not said in the film. But in all honesty, to me, George seems like someone I am not. He seemed to exude selflessness and grace, while I, at times, spew selfishness and negativity. This is what brings me to the greatest lesson I've learned from this movie: I cannot do this alone.
For those of us who claim to be Christ followers, we know that His Spirit was given to us to live within us when we believe in Jesus as our Savior. However, we still struggle with the flesh. The flesh is that sin nature in us, that nature that demands its own way; that nature that says, "I have a right!" George Bailey could have said he had a right to leave town and go to school, even when his brother had a chance at a better job, but he didn't. George made numerous choices that we could say showed he was walking in the Spirit. Now I have no idea what George's spiritual inclinations were, but when he was at his most desperate he cried out to God.
The aforementioned passage makes an interesting point. It says that if our mind is set on the flesh we will not subject ourselves to the law of God, in fact, it is not even possible for us to do so. George was at his lowest after he had been trying to work through his troubles in his own flesh. It was at this desperate point he cried out to God, and God sent help, albeit Clarence was a bit of a misfit angel, but God knew exactly what George needed.
And we all know how the movie ends. George realizes how important all those people are in his life and just how important he is in theirs. God answered George's prayer in a way that was above and beyond what George even asked for.
While realizing we are all important to this life and all of our choices do affect others is a very important lesson, the one that I found most important is that I cannot do this life alone. God did not intend that we go it alone, or in the words of Simon and Garfunkel, "I am a rock! I am an island." God gave us each other, but He also gave us His son, Jesus.
Remember Christmas? Christ mass? The whole point of the holiday is Jesus. Jesus lived in a fleshly body, so that we might live in a Spiritual one. The Holy Spirit is always with us. So when life gets overwhelming like it did for George, Cry Out to Jesus.