In the film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey gets to see the world as if he never existed, with the help of the angel Clarence. He finds out that, without him, Uncle Billy never does find his hat.
Just kidding! Really, he finds that without his life, a scheming billionaire would take over his hometown. Talk about stoking the old ego. And this whole time George Bailey had thought the only thing he had done was be a lazy bum managing a business, building a subdivision and having five children. Good thing he had that scheming billionaire to take down and an angel to point it out to him.
But angels don’t usually take anyone to alternate realities. They don’t even come all that often in scripture. Unless you’re living in reruns of “Touched by an Angel,” God for the most part leaves us without spirits that we can see.
However, George Bailey had plenty of angels in his life long before Clarence. He had an adoring wife, a loving mother and great friends looking out for him. When we make God’s business our business, we become angels for others.
But in Clarence’s vision of a life where he was never born, all these people are worse off without George. They needed his help to be who they were.
Oh, boloney. George Bailey treats the angels God already sent him with disdain. Had he held them in greater esteem, suicide might not have been much of an option. George Bailey depended on his family and friends just as much as they depended on him, and maybe more so.
His wife prodded him into the marriage, and then raised five kids while remodeling the house. Would she be a lonely old maid working at the library? Not a go-getter like her. (For the record, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with working at the library—it’s the movie that has the problem). I doubt the others in his life would necessarily be in quite such bad shape as Clarence suggested either.
If George Bailey had not been successful with one dang thing, his life would have still been wonderful. He had family and friends who cared about him and looked out for him. A better vision for George Bailey might have shown him his dreams coming true, and then what might have become of his life: empty, lonely, with nothing but tall buildings bearing his name and some tourist items. That vision came of course in another story to a man named Scrooge, shown by three angels, or ghosts as “A Christmas Carol” calls them. George Bailey and Scrooge aren’t all that different really. George just had more angels making sure he behaved better—making sure he became an angel to others, as Clarence’s vision shows him he is.
But really George Bailey didn’t need a vision at all. All he needed to do was hang on for a few more minutes. He just needed to see that angels, real family, friends and neighbors, were going to be there to rescue him in a much more humble way than Clarence cooked up.
All of us have our George Bailey moments when we see our dreams smashed and life looks unredeemable. But George didn’t need a vision, he just needed to see the angels around him and so do we.
Merry Christmas to all.
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