While we are in the season of Advent, allow me to direct your attention to a post by Chaplain Mike over at internetmonk.com in which he breaks down the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” and its connection to the Gospel.
George Bailey was the quintessential Boy Scout. He was never afraid to do a good turn or to help someone in need. As a boy, he jumped into icy water to save his brother from drowning. He lost hearing in one ear as a result; this would later cost him the opportunity to enlist in WWII. As an adolescent working at the local pharmacy, he averted a tragedy by correcting a mistake made by the pharmacist. When his father died unexpectedly, he took over the family business. This was intended to be a temporary arrangement until his brother could step into the role, but when things worked out so that his brother would be unable to step into the role, he took it on permanently.
As director of the family savings and loan, he was generous to a fault. He said yes when the bank across town said no, and as a result working-class people were able to own homes who could not have otherwise done so.
But George Bailey had his own plans for life. He dreamed of leaving the small town where he lived, and living life on a grand scale and making a grand impact upon the world. Much as he wanted it, it never worked out to where he would be able to leave. Though he knew that others looked up to him and counted on him, he never felt fully appreciated.
Finally it all came to a head, and George Bailey was in danger of losing everything. An employee lost a sizeable amount of money while en route to make a deposit at the bank. A search was made, but the money never turned up. There was not enough money in the bank to cover this loss. Now George Bailey faced charges of embezzlement, the loss of the family business, and the disgrace of knowing that it all happened on his watch. In a move of desperation, he even went to Mr. Potter at the bank across town, his family’s chief and long-hated rival. No help came there, only the mocking words that “You’re worth more dead than alive.”
This pushed George Bailey to the top of a bridge on Christmas Eve, where he very strongly contemplated suicide. And it was here that he had his Gospel moment.
He was in over his head. Despite all his good deeds, nothing would avail him in this moment. He desperately needed a rescue. He needed God to meet him. And He did, in a most unexpected form.
Clarence, an AS2 (Angel, Second Class) who was apprenticing to be a real angel, appeared in the form of a kindly old man. He attracted George Bailey’s attention by appealing to his good nature and longstanding habit of helping others, throwing himself into the river in front of him.
From there, Clarence guided George Bailey through a vision of what life in his town and in the world would have been like without him. Through Clarence, he came to be reconciled with his family, coworkers, and community, who had all been alienated from him in the course of his downfall. And his deliverance came as all the community members to whom he had meant so much chipped in what they could–a dollar here, a couple of dollars there–and the amount collected was more than enough to cover the missing deposit.
Read Chaplain Mike’s piece in which he connects “It’s a Wonderful Life” to the Gospel. Read It’s a Wonderful Gospel