It’s a Wonderful Life made its annual visitation to our TV the other night. It is one holiday program that both Nancy and I enjoy and watching it has become an Advent ritual for us. I long ago realized it is a very different kind from the usual Christmas specials that “grace” (?) the airwaves in December.
It was late into the night when I awoke with the thought that Its A Wonderful Life is a lot like the story of the Transfiguration. George has the opportunity to have his mountain top experience of knowing that what he does makes a difference and is valued. But after the Christmas rescue life continues. He has to go back to the building and loan and continue to slog through the day-to-day problems. The penny-ante, hand–to-mouth financing has not changed. His relationship with Potter is still hostile and the banker will probably make other moves to put the Building & Loan out of business.
Uncle Billy is still an alcoholic. Easily rattled and not totally trustworthy in business. George still has not lived out his early dreams of travel and has no obvious chance of doing so. And on and on…
In the usual genre of Christmas specials the stereotypic ending has Scrooge or the Grinch achieving enlightenment and being converted. Tiny Tim is no longer sick, The Whos have a Christmas feast with the Grinch as Santa; and they all lived happily ever after. But this movie presents us with a more realistic future.
Its A Wonderful Life is more like life as we live it. It is more of the kind of Christmas as we seem to celebrate it year to year. It isn’t perfect, nor does it promise perfection ever after. We are simply given Good News, and a large dose of hope to sustain us on our continuing journey. We like George Bailey and the apostles come down from the peak experience to continue to be followers of Jesus in the valley. Doing our best as we are able, listening for the still small voice within, loving our neighbor, and hoping for the best.
– those angels without wings God sends to help us find our way.