(Post by: Madie Hobbs) Blogmas Day Thirty-One
It’s a Wonderful Life is no doubt one of the most well-known Christmas movies of all time and has long been a traditional watch around the Holidays in our household. However, I was just recently made aware, while talking with one of my friends, that there is a portion of the population who have never even heard of, let alone watched, this movie. To say I was newly amazed at how far our culture has travelled down a path of destruction, would be an incredible understatement. So, I am setting out to make sure I explain the plot of this film before I get into the real reason why I am writing to you today.
The film is centered around George Bailey, a man with big endeavors, who dreams with all his might to escape the “crummy little town” of Bedford Falls. When his father dies just before George is about to have his dream come true, he is forced to give up an extravagant trip to Europe and his college education. All to keep the Bailey Building & Loan (a business his father and uncle started) from falling into the clammy clutches of a “warped, frustrated old man” by the name of Mr. Potter. Eventually, George gets married, has kids, and accepts the fact that he will never be able to leave Bedford Falls.
On Christmas Eve, George’s uncle Billy misplaces $8,000 which was meant to be deposited into the Building & Loan’s bank account. He and Uncle Billy search all day, in every place imaginable, for this money, but they have no luck at all. If George is unable to deposit $8,000 dollars, he will be forced to file for bankruptcy, and experience Bedford Fall’s scandal of the century. He has no choice but to crawl to Potter, who, for George’s entire life, has desperately been trying to gain control of the entirety of Bedford Falls, which most especially includes the Building & Loan. Unbeknownst to George, Uncle Billy had accidently placed the envelope of money in the folds of Potter’s newspaper, and it was now sitting comfortably in the dark corner of one of Potter’s desk drawers. Potter refuses to lend George any kind of financial support, and in fact calls the police to inform them that George Bailey had been mismanaging the business’s finances.
George is out of options and can hardly cope with the stress he’s experiencing. Just as he is about to plunge into the icy river on the outskirts of Bedford Falls, the prayers of many people are heard in Heaven, as they beg for the Lord to help George. An angel, by the name of Clarence, is sent down, and he jumps in the river himself, knowing that George would save him, and he would thus keep him from committing suicide.
His plan succeeds, and as he is explaining to George why he’s there, which at first isn’t believed for a single second, George angrily makes the comment that he wishes he would “never have been born.” Clarence readily enough makes this wish come true, and George is given the special privilege of seeing just what Bedford Falls, and the people in it, would have become had he never been there.
I won’t give away all those details because I couldn’t possibly do them justice, and you should quite simply just watch the movie.
Once George realizes the magnitude his mere existence has had on his little corner of the world, he is allowed to return to his former reality. He bounds home, shouting Merry Christmas to everyone in sight, and thanking God for the mundaneness of lovely little Bedford Falls. He bursts through his front door to find the bank examiner, sent to look over the finances of the Building & Loan, and a policeman sent to arrest George.
Instead of being upset, he wishes the bank examiner a hardy Merry Christmas, and looks down at the paper in the hand of the officer. He pats the officer on the shoulder and says, “I’ll bet that’s a warrant for my arrest. I’m going to jail. Isn’t it wonderful?” When he sees his children standing at the top of the stairs, he rushes toward them and takes all four of them into his arms and holds them as tight as he can. Mary, his wife, who you see if George had never been born would have become a miserable old maid, rushes through the front door and tells George to come downstairs as fast as he can.
A few seconds later, Uncle Billy, who would’ve been in an insane asylum if George hadn’t been born, comes rushing in carrying a giant basket and speaking as fast as he can.
“Mary’s wonderful!” he says excitedly. “She went all around town and told everyone you were in trouble. That’s all she had to tell them, just ‘George is in trouble. George is in trouble’.”
The next thing you know, the Bailey’s living room is flooded with familiar faces, all of whom are tossing as much money as they can spare onto the table George and his family are standing behind. None of them could give very much. Two dollars here, five dollars there. But the thing that really stuck out to me was the companionship they all had with one another.
As more and more people rush in, you hear their names being lovingly shouted out as they come in. “Annie!” is shouted happily here. “Mr. Martini!” is shouted joyously there. “Harry! Ma Bailey! Burt! Mr. Gower!” All over, people are bursting with joy and companionship at the sight of their neighbors, and each of them come in with a special reason for why they are giving George their money.
“My family and I wouldn’t have a roof over our heads if it weren’t for you, George,” someone says. “George lent me money once. This is the least I can do to repay him,” another admits. “I’d be in jail right now if you hadn’t helped me, George,” an old man states.
I’ve watched this scene many times, and it always brings a tear to my eye, but this Christmas it resonated a bit differently. I realized I was watching the most perfectly realistic example of what true fellowship looks like. What Unity looks like.
“That’s Church, right there,” I thought to myself.
You see, the problem with what we claim to be church, is this un-surrendered want to micro-manage everything. We want to manage where Church happens. How it happens. Who is in attendance. Who is greeting. Who is singing. What people are doing for each other outside of our 10-11:00 services.
Ultimately, we want to manage the Holy Spirit. We want to manage the untamable, unfathomable presence and power of El Elyon. The Most High.
How utterly foolish we are!
We humans believe we have the power to restrain the Unrestrainable. To shout over the Still Small Voice. We wish to revel in the rewards of His sacrifices without giving Him the time of the day He has provided us enough breath to live through.
But our God has never been persuaded by the arrogance of man.
You see, Church happens in places like the Bailey’s living room, on Christmas Eve, with a multitude of people who have hardly anything to give, but they give it with such joy. Such love. Such surrender.
That is where lives are changed. Not at our micro-managed carry-in’s. Not in our 60 minute, no more no less, services on our cushioned seats with our heaters rattling behind the walls.
Church happens around a firepit. Around a dining table. Sitting on the tailgate of a pick-up truck. Driving down the highway. In the bookstore.
Church happens wherever God’s people come together with no agenda. With no self-serving purposes. He comes without warning into the middle of our lives if only we surrender them.
Church happens when people put the needs of others before their own. It happens when we share stories of how God has used certain people to completely alter our lives, whether they realized it or not.
That’s Church, right there.
At the end of the movie, in the Bailey’s bursting at the seams living room, these friends begin singing Auld Lang Syne, a song which has touched my heart on many occasions. The first verse of this song says, “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintance be forgot for auld lang syne?” In this verse Auld Lang Syne is loosely translated as “for the sake of old times.”
As we enter this New Year, for the sake of old times, may we come together as One body and stand together through whatever stormy gales we may traverse in the coming future.
For the sake of old times, let’s have Church.