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Yes, it really IS a wonderful life …

December 24, 2008

… it’s all in your attitude.




Read Don Feder’s column discussing Wendell Jamieson’s self-revealing screed on the Frank Capra classic film It’s a Wonderful Life

Mr. Jamieson complains that only the “alternate history” sequence of the movie shows the characters in their true colors.  It certainly does show us their colors.  We all have a dark side — it’s called Original Sin, or concupiscence, or sin nature, or whatnot depending on your theological flavor.  We’re all acquainted with that side of ourselves, as assiduously as we try to hide it.  Mr. Jamieson fairly revels in his dark side, and mourns for its lost youthful intensity. 

But we also have love.  And love is so very much more powerful than sin.  Scripture tells us love is stronger than death.  Christmas is about that very thing — God becoming mortal, voluntarily subjecting himself to the limitations of mortal life as well as death, out of love for us.   A priest once told me “sacrifice is the language of love.”  Not sacrifice in the Ayn Randian sense of giving up a greater value in return for a lesser value.  In Christian love, the greater value IS the other person’s good.  So in Christian sacrifice, we are obtaining the GREATER good.  I think most parents can understand this as applied to their children.  It’s applying it to other people that’s so very much more difficult.  But in George Bailey’s case, we see that he truly does love, and love broadly, blessed little Bedford Falls.  He obtains the greater good for so very many people simply by doing what needs to be done moment by moment.  That is love.  I don’t think Mr. Jamieson sees the love. 

What really touches me personally about this movie is that George Bailey is so privileged among all mortals to see how very many lives his one little life touches and uplifts.  In scripture, we read of Ruth, who followed her mother-in-law Naomi to a foreign land out of love (and perhaps rootlessness) and in the end became the great-grandmother of King David.  I’m sure neither Naomi nor Ruth lived long enough to meet baby David, much less see him grow up and take the throne.  But without Naomi’s desire to return to her homeland, and Ruth’s desire to help a poor old woman in the most mundane of tasks, there never would have been the glory and drama of King David or King Solomon.   

I try to keep that in mind on those days when I wonder what’s the point.

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