- Religion and Philosophy
What Clarence Forgot
You see George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?-- Clarence the Angel
When the holidays come around, America abounds with tradition. Twinkling trees in living rooms, old-timey music sounds on home and store radios, and some of our favorite stories are retold. At the top of nearly every best holiday films list is Frank Capra's 1946 movie It's a Wonderful Life, beloved for it's time honored themes of family, love and honor.
Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey is a hero of a most unheroic, unforgettable kind. His life is nothing exciting and occasionally disappointing, with lots of unfulfilled dreams and humdrum normality. He gave up his hopes of education and travelling to keep his father's business running and take care of his family. Most people have probably seen the movie, so I don't need to tell you that George Bailey comes to a crisis on one snowy Christmas Eve, and is paid a visit by his guardian angel, a homely and quaint sort of gentleman named Clarence. It's Clarence's job to demonstrate to George that his life really is wonderful, and his idea to put a hole in the river isn't a good one. Over the next few hours, George is shown that his life really has been significant in small ways, whether saving his brother when he was young or providing for his widowed mother. All of the things that he has practically forgotten, whether it was helping provide a home for an immigrant family to live in or being the friend to give a pat on the back when it's needed, George Bailey has been an important, needed part of his family and community.
In the end it's Clarence, with the help of those same friends and family, that save George from himself, giving the much needed reminder that though your house may be old and drafty, your bank account almost empty, and your life nothing like you thought it should be, it's still a wonderful life. As Clarence says "Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"
But there's something that Clarence forgot to tell George about his wonderful life. Sure, George is a great guy, even if he's a little cranky at moments. Maybe he gripes about his house, his job, and even his kids. In spite of the rough edges, he's got the makings of one fine man. But if that's all, is it really a wonderful life?
This is what Clarence missed-- George Bailey's life is nothing compared to a life that started out more humbly and was lived with far more hardship than anyone in Bedford Falls could imagine. George and his good deeds are nothing compared with the work of the son of God, who didn't save his brother from drowning in a freezing pond, but rather saved humanity from the wretchedness of their sins. Because no matter how great George, or Mary, or Zuzu are, they are nothing without the baby whose birth we celebrate on Christmas. And that is nothing unless that baby becomes the Savior, dying a miserable death and then conquering that same death to erase every complaint or arrogant thought that ever went through George Bailey's head in the sight of his heavenly Father.
So just like George, you should realize the wonder that is Christmas. But please, as you do so, remember why your life really is wonderful. It has nothing to do with your good deeds, and everything to do with one who loved you enough to give himself to the ultimate good deed-- your redemption, sanctification, and ultimate resurrection to life everlasting.