Talking with Johnny Carson in 1987 about “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jimmy Stewart said, “It’s amazing that it’s become such a Christmas picture.” It should be no surprise since the movie ends in a heart-warming Christmas scene, and a plot theme is full of the Christmas message.
Director Frank Capra’s movie portrays the humble life of George Bailey. Despite his wanderlust of anchor chains, plane motors, train whistles, and his idealistic plans of changing the world, he stayed home. His father died and left the responsibility for the town building and loan business to George. In his work, he was admired and respected as he protected the town from the miserly Henry Potter.
George Bailey was a hero. He did not know what he meant to his family and friends until he saw what Bedford Falls might be like had he never been born. How fitting that they honored their hero at Christmas.
We are attracted to heroes, especially real ones. Just this month two policemen in Americus Georgia sacrificed their lives protecting their community from a lifelong, violent criminal. It became a national story, with condolences pouring in from around the country. May God strengthen these hero families in their time of grief and lifelong loss.
To truly understand the Christmas story, you must see the world from God’s perspective. He sees people walking in darkness, living in a dark land, who need light. He sees people going astray like sheep, turning to our own way, who need a shepherd. (Is. 9, 53)
Into such a world a child was born, and “His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Is. 9:6). This child was from above, as “He was in the beginning with God” (Jn. 1:2). He was also from below, as his mother Mary “wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger” (Lk. 2:7). He is God in the flesh, God with us, the God who saves.
Jesus is our hero. His mission on earth was to be light, to be a shepherd, to be the way back to our Creator. What would our lives be like if he had never been born, never completed his mission? Paul tells us, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). I shudder to think what the world would be without the love of God manifest to us in Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection.
Linus in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” explains the true meaning of Christmas. “I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:10-11). Our Christmas hero.