The Christmas season is quickly approaching which means soon I will settle down and watch my all time holiday favorite It's a Wonderful Life. To some it is an outdated, even cheesy movie (a phrase my teenagers use...whatever that means) which is probably why I often find myself watching it alone. Yet it has been on my Christmas "to do" list every year for about fifteen years now, still giving me warm-fuzzies and hope.
In this classic tale, George Bailey has dreams, big dreams. He wants to leave small town USA and travel the world to accomplish great and exciting things. He seems to be well on his way when a series of unfortunate events (not to be confused with another movie by that title) keeps George in Bedford Falls working at the old Savings and Loan, his worst nightmare come true.
One Christmas Eve, when life looks bleakest for George, his efforts to commit suicide are thwarted by an unlikely angel who gives him a glimpse of what life would be like if he had never been born. As Clarence the Angel takes Goerge to familiar people and places, he discovers that his life actually made a tremendous difference in his town, neighbors, and friends. The world was a better place with him in it.
Changing the world would seem to be the role of political leaders, powerful CEO's, brilliant scientists, or rich investors. Yet George made a profound difference by simply living a life of love and integrity. That's the part that gives me both the warm fuzzies and the hope - simple people making a world of difference.
But, It's a Wonderful Life is merely a movie, isn't it? We all know movies have "happily-ever-after" endings, when real life seldom does. Is it too much to hope that ordinary, real people can have such an impact?
Recently I came across this verse in Jeremiah:
"Roam through the streets of Jerusalem. Look and take note; search in her squares. If you find a single person, anyone who acts justly, who seeks to be faithful, then I will forgive her." (Jeremiah 5:1)
Ancient Jerusalem was wicked, so much so that God decided to destroy her. Jeremiah the Prophet was sent to warn the city about her impending doom. There was one hope for the city, however; God told Jeremiah He would spare the city if even one just and faithful person (meaning someone sold out to God) could be found. That's worth repeating: God would spare the entire city if only one godly person lived there! Unfortunately, there wasn't one found, not even one, who still pleased God. So God eventually allowed the city to be destroyed by her enemies. Many died, many were taking captive, and many were left homeless all because there wasn't one person who was faithful. God summed it up when He said to the prophet, Ezekiel, "I looked for a man among them who would ...stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none." (Ezekiel 22:30)
Clarence once said to George, "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?"
Yes, indeed, each life touches each other in ways we can't even imagine. One person sold out to God has the power of life; the lack of one the power of death.
Will we be that one person in our family, our community, our city?