Yes I know it’s February and Christmas is a distant memory, and while I love the holiday, I’m getting a little tired of what seems like a perpetual replay of winter wonderland, as we woke this morning to another new snow fall. So then why do I opt to use the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life as a segue to our discussion of our Gospel, (Matthew 5: 13-20)? In our Gospel we are reminded that Jesus is not talking to the “movers and the shakers,” the so-called leaders…the people with power and money, education and good looks. Jesus is talking to the common man, telling them that they possess the light for transformation of the world to reflect God’s desires for the world.
So what does this have to do with the classic movie? How well we have come to know the story of George Bailey, a struggling businessman whose dreams and aspirations are shattered as his life gets sidetracked by unintended consequences. I wonder how many of us can relate to unplanned events in our lives that have taken us far afield from our life’s plans. As we look back don’t we often wonder how different life would have been if unintended consequences had not intervened? The movie reminds us that everything that happens has intended and unintended consequences and that everyone in the story relates to one another.
There are two scenes in particular that reminds us that George Bailey is a “light force for transformation.” One involves a discussion that George has with his father, during which he professes his desire to “make a difference” and rejects any notion of following his father’s footsteps in becoming a banker. His father tells him, you know, George, I feel that in a small way we are doing something important. Satisfying a fundamental urge. It’s deep in the race for a man to want his own roof and walls and fireplace, and we’re helping him get those things in our shabby little office.
The other scene comes as George, a victim of unintended consequences on the brink of despair, wonders if his life was all worth it. To which his “guardian angel,” Clarence responds Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives, and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?
We have all known people in our lives whom we believe make us better persons by just being in our lives. They’re the ones who make our day better, simply by talking to us. These are the Godly people to which Jesus is speaking: You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Truly Godly people are the ones who make a difference everywhere they go, although unintended consequences may prevent them from even knowing that they have made such a difference. Somehow, they always seem to be in the right place at the right time and doing the very thing that is most needed at any given time. And the difference between such Godly folks and everyone else, is they try to live life as Jesus did by loving God the only way we really can…by loving each other. We are not alone; we are not insignificant; we are loved, cared for and intended for wonderful purposes. It truly is a wonderful life.