Life can feel hopeless, but in Christ, it truly is a wonderful life.
This is a picture from a scene in the movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ In this scene George Bailey, played by actor Jimmy Stewart, says a desperate prayer right before he goes to go jump off a bridge in an attempt to take his own life. He doesn’t know it, but the whole town is praying for him and a clumsy angel named Clarence has already been dispatched to attend him. George Bailey was facing unjust criminal charges, his dreams had been dashed, and he felt like a miserable failure, worth more dead than alive. So it was a dramatic and sad scene.
But something else happened in this scene, something special, beyond the movie. The movie was filmed in 1946. The actor who played George Bailey, Jimmy Stewart had recently served his country for 3 years in the Air Force during World War 2. The life he came back to was not the life he’d left. The world was different and he was different. He’d become familiar with pain and sorrow in a new and deeply profound way. He’d seen the tragedies of war firsthand, and in 1946 so many people hurting, grieving the loss of over 400,000 lives lost in the war. The war had ended, but the pain of war had not.
It’s a Wonderful Life was Jimmy Stewarts first film after the war. The prayer he prays was in the movie script but the emotion was not. That wasn’t George Bailey’s emotional moment, it was the actor, Jimmy Stewart’s. It wasn’t acting, it was a sneak peak into his reality. So it was in real agony that he raised his eyes and plead, “God… Oh God…Dear Father in heaven…if you’re up there and you can hear me, show me the way. I’m at the end of my rope. Show me the way, God…”
Years after the making of the movie, actor Jimmy Stewart recalled that scene and said:
“As I said those words, I felt the loneliness, the hopelessness of people who had nowhere to turn, and my eyes filled with tears. I broke down sobbing. This was not planned at all, but the power of that prayer, the realization that our Father in heaven is there to help the hopeless, had reduced me to tears.”
Another interesting fact is the scene had been filmed from distance away. It was supposed to be a simple scene of him slumped down praying, but the emotion of it got him and made it much more powerful. And the director immediately regretted that he wasn’t filming the shot closer, he knew he’d never capture that sort of real and raw emotion again. So in order to get scene up close, they did something that hadn’t been done before. The following week they worked long hours in the film laboratory, repeatedly enlarging the frames so that eventually it would appear as a close-up on the screen. It involved thousands of enlargements with lots of extra time and money. But they felt it was worth it.
Have you felt what Jimmy Stewart was feeling in that scene? A sense of helplessness and desperate need for something divine to intervene? That feeling like the weight of all the hurt in the world is coming down on you? Have you felt that pain for yourself or for others? Maybe in this past year your employment status was threatened or lost. Or your loved one was sick or dying. Or maybe everything you thought you could depend on, changed or was even taken away, overnight. Those things can bring about a cocktail mixture of fear, sorrow, anxiety, desperation…The good news is, that’s where some of the most heart felt prayers are prayed. It’s where God finds us, touches us, comforts us, changes us.
But sometimes like the scene in the movie, we need to zoom in and really get a close look at the hopelessness so that we can appreciate the hope that God gives.
“God… Oh God…Dear Father in heaven…if you’re up there and you can hear me, show me the way. I’m at the end of my rope. Show me the way, God…”
Christmas has an answer to those types of prayers. Christmas is a reminder that when we’re at the end of our rope. God’s Hope and healing begins.
George Bailey prayed “show me the way” That’s a prayer God has already answered, but we often need to be reminded. He answered it on the first Christmas and on the cross, about 2000 years ago. When the Son of God took on flesh and came to die for our sins and give us life.
In John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6
Thomas a Kempis said: “Without the way, there is no going; without the truth, there is no knowing; without the life, there is no living”
He is the wonderful way, he is the wonderful truth, he is the wonderful life.
In It’s a wonderful life George Bailey had a clumsy angel named Clarence jump in the water to save him when he wanted to jump off that bridge. WAYYYY better than that— the Son of God came into space and time to BE THE BRIDGE for you and I to be forgive have a relationship with God and eternal life in Him.
Christmas is about remembering that while we were in a hopeless place, dead in our sin, God initiated a brave bold rescue. Christmas is about faith, love, rescue, restoration, and relationship with God. Christmas is about Jesus Christ. He gives us Hope a truly wonderful life.
This year hasn’t been what any of us would have drawn up as ideal. It may have been especially hard for you. It may have you feeling like George Bailey when he prayed that prayer in the bar. If so, Christmas comes just in time—to remind us of Hope from above, where real joy comes from. Life can feel hopeless, but in Christ, it is a wonderful life.
Several year after It’s A Wonderful Life came out, Jimmy Stewart summarized the movie and said:
“It’s simply about an ordinary man who discovers that living each ordinary day honorably, with faith in God and a selfless concern for others, can make for a truly wonderful life.”
Through Jesus Christ’s miraculous birth, perfect life, death on the cross, and resurrection, if we believe in him, Jesus will give us a a deep love for God in our heart and a vibrant love for others in our life, right into eternity. That’s what Christ brings. In Him, it truly is a wonderful life.
Merry Christmas, friends. God loves you so much.
Here’s a link to a 1 min clip of the prayer: https://youtu.be/54TQIE-DLmU