Saturday, December 06, 2008

it's an (abundantly) wonderful life

last night, for our december installment of reel life: discussions on film and faith we watched "it's a wonderful life." most people have seen this christmas classic, so it wasn't so much about exposing people to a new film as it was looking at an old stand-by through the eyes of faith. as i watched it again (it seems to be a film that i always see in parts, but rarely sit down to watch in its entirety - it is 130 minutes long!), i was moved by a couple of things.
first, i was interested in the fact that george bailey embodies the gospel of jesus christ, to a great extent. i mean, he isn't a powerful preacher or traveling evangelist, but, in many ways, he is as good a preacher or evangelist as there is, bringing good news to the poor and the "riff-raff" of bedford falls. the way i see it, george is living a kind of matthew 25 life (helping the 'least of these') and in so doing is acting as the antithesis to mr. potter's life of using others for self-gain. therein lies the fundamental difference, i think: how we treat others. mr. potter sees others as a commodity or a product or a potential profit (financial or otherwise), but george bailey sees people as people, and wants them to live decent lives. this concern for the 'other,' for the marginalized and the oppressed, for the riff-raff, is the same that i see in Jesus. i saw the gospel in "its a wonderful life."
but i also saw a great challenge, which i always see when i watch this film. the challenge is one that is found often in film (i find this same challenge in 'dead poets society,' 'shadowlands,' and many more), and that originates, for me, in scripture. ****spoiler alert follows**** after george has his experience of seeing what the world would have been like had he never been born, he is, in a very real sense, born again. at the very least, he seems alive in a new way. where the town used to seem small and restrictive, he now sees it as a friendly community. where his house once seemed old and drafty, he now sees it as a home. where his children once seemed loud and annoying, he now sees them as precious and beautiful. i could go on, but the point is that george bailey is now living an overflowing life. through the eyes of faith, i see this as grounded in scripture. in john 10:10 jesus tells us that he came to give us life, and not just any life, but life abundant, or life overflowing. jesus longs to give us abundant life; life oozing out of our pores; life splashing out of us onto everything around us. and the good news is, of course, that we have been given this kind of life. jesus has indeed given us this new birth in the spirit, and we are the recipients of abundant life, but too often we live that life as if our towns were restrictive, our homes are drafty, our children are annoying and so on. we focus on the negative and life abundant becomes life assumed. we take it for granted. and we don't appreciate it. but the challenge that this film presents to me is this: am i living my abundant life? am i celebrating each moment and sucking the marrow from life (whitman, via 'dead poets society')? am i embodying the abundant life that god has given me, at christmas and at all times? am i appreciating and enjoying and truly living life? because it is, after all, a wonderful life.


Crafty P said...

greg that is beautiful. I cannot WAIT to watch this movie in the coming weeks with "new eyes".

...won't you come out tonight, come out tonight, come out tonight... and sit by the light of the moon!"

ps that is more than I EVER got out of this movie! but again, thank you for a new vision.

Anonymous said...

greg, it was really a wonderful friday night. thanks. julid

Emoly said...

knowing that Bill will not be reading this, I just bought the dvd last night. Every year we've said, "why don't we own this?" Now we will. It was on sale at Target for $12.99 I was ecstatic.

It's a wonderful film. For a long time I always wrote it off, having only seen the end. Finally, I watched the entire thing and realized why it's considered a classic. It has a place in my heart and brings the true meaning of Christmas to light!

Thanks for sharing!!!

Brooke said...

I love this movie. It wouldn't be Christmas without it. Thank you for shinning a new light on what this movie brings to the viewer. Merry Christmas