This year, I feel much like George Bailey.
Do you remember George Bailey from the classic Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life!”?
George Bailey lived a small life of great magnificence. He also lived a large life of uncommon miracles.
George Bailey and I have much in common this year.
George dreamed of traveling far and wide … of going to college … of experiencing life in expansive and adventurous ways.
George Bailey: “I'm shakin' the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I'm gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Colosseum. Then, I'm comin' back here to go to college and see what they know. And then I'm gonna build things. I'm gonna build airfields, I'm gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I'm gonna build bridges a mile long...”
Instead, George stayed at home in Bedford Falls and took care of people. He remained a faithful son and a generous friend. He helped poor people buy houses … he saved his little brother’s life … he kept the local pharmacist from making a fatal mistake … he stopped Mr. Potter, the meanest man in town, from ruling the town with power and greed.
Mr. Potter:” Look at you. You used to be so cocky. You were going to go out and conquer the world. You once called me "a warped, frustrated, old man"! What are you but a warped, frustrated young man? A miserable little clerk crawling in here on your hands and knees and begging for help. No securities, no stocks, no bonds, nothin' but a miserable little $500 equity in a life insurance policy.”
When George’s business encountered a serious financial deficit, he falsely believed that he was worth more dead than alive and contemplated suicide one Christmas Eve.
Except God intervened in the life and despair of George Bailey. God sent an angel.
It seems to me that often God sends angels at Christmas time!
God sent an angel named Clarence to convince George that his was a life of honor and purpose. Clarence was given the power from heaven to demonstrate to George what life in Bedford Falls would be like if George had never been born.
When the George who had never been born walked into the local cemetery of Bedford Falls, he discovered the tombstone of his brother, Harry.
Clarence: “Your brother, Harry Bailey, broke through the ice and was drowned at the age of nine.”
George Bailey: “That’s a lie! Harry Bailey went to war! He got the Congressional Medal of Honor! He saved the lives of every man on that transport!
Clarence: “Every man on that transport died. Harry wasn’t there to save them, because you weren’t there to save Harry.”
George’s small, magnificent, large, uncommon life mattered. It mattered very much.
Clarence: “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?!”
As Clarence and George traveled around the hamlet of Bedford Falls on the snowy Christmas Eve of George’s epic emotional and spiritual battle, George discovered that although he had never traveled … or completed college … or had accomplished anything at all that the world would classify as “success” or as “significant” … that George had changed the lives of many, many people.
George’s life had made a rich and lasting mark just by his exhibition of human kindness, integrity and generosity.
Clarence: “You see, George, you’ve really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?”
And in that moment, George realized the miracle of a common life. On that stormy Christmas evening, George was given a new chance to live again.
George Bailey: “Help me, Clarence, please! Please! I wanna live again. I wanna live again. Please, God, let me live again.”
His joy was contagious and pervasive! George Bailey was filled with an expectation and a hope that splashed on the dark streets of his deserted hometown.
Although the circumstances of George Bailey’s life had not changed, his perspective of life had taken on new meaning and resolve.
George Bailey: “Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old building and loan!”
This year, Christmas 2015, I feel much like George Bailey. I have been given a new chance at life and purpose! My perspective has changed because of the horrific battle that I have endured.
George battled demons of the heart and mind … I have battled the demon of cancer and have experienced the power and presence of God!
Last year at this time, I was spending the holidays in oncologists’ offices, hearing about brutal treatment options and preparing for surgery.
This year, I am shouting for joy as I run through the streets of my life, “Merry Christmas, family and friends! Merry Christmas, strangers and acquaintances! Merry Christmas, you wonderful life!”
I, like George Bailey, have discovered the miracle of living a wonderful life. I am convinced to the core of my being that nothing will ever be the same again!
I will never again take for granted the true wealth of living a common life with uncommon purpose.
I have been given a second chance to sing the great hymns of my faith … to pray with power and for miracles … to minister hope to a hopeless generation … to teach the Word of God to anyone who will listen … to write books of meaning and encouragement … and to love people with the love of God.
I have been given a second chance to embrace a faith that moves mountains … to stand with a defiant faith against the darkness of the enemy … to smile at strangers and to forgive difficult people.
I am filled to overflowing with the wonder of life and I stand in breathless marvel at the true gift that a common life brings. I am determined to wring the joy out of an ordinary day and to handle my common life with uncommon gratitude.
And so, this day, the last day of 2015, I exclaim with my buddy, George Bailey, “Happy New Year, world! Happy New Year, politicians and prostitutes! Happy New Year, media moguls and corporate executives! Happy New Year, teachers, doctors and lawyers! Happy New Year, cancer warriors and those who are depressed!”
Each one of us is alive and we hold the glory of hope in our heart!
Like George Bailey, I am, quite simply, the richest person in town!