Friday, December 27, 2019

Christmas at the Movies: It’s a Wonderful Life

“They saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him…. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” 
– Matthew 2:11-12

Our church family’s favorite Christmas movie of all time is the original Christmas classic: “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The movie tells the story of a dreamer named George Bailey who feels cooped up in his sleepy little town of Bedford Falls. George manages a small Building and Loan company founded by his father. But since childhood, George has dreamed of shaking the dust of his crummy little town off his feet and seeing the world! George Bailey wants to do big things with his life. And he does…but not in the way he expects.

Some of the best stories and movies have a hero and a villain. In “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey is the hero, and Mr. Potter—the most powerful man in town—is the villain. In Matthew 2, after Jesus Christ has been born, there are several heroes and a villain. The heroes of the story are the magi. And the villain is King Herod.

We don’t know much about the magi who visited Jesus, but we do know they were experts in astronomy and astrology. And around the time of Jesus’ birth, these magi noticed a new star they had never seen. Somehow, the magi concluded that the star had been placed in the sky to announce the birth of the King of the Jews, so they formed a caravan and traveled over 1,000 miles to see and worship the newborn King of the Jews.

Historians tell us that the Roman government gave Herod the title “King of the Jews,” and he wore that title proudly. These historians also tell us that Herod was an extremely jealous, paranoid ruler who murdered anyone who he suspected of trying to steal the throne--even his own family members. It’s safe to say that Herod was a psychopath. He must have become insanely jealous when the magi strolled into town asking where the newborn King of the Jews was. “A new king?” Herod must have thought. “I’M THE ONLY KING OF THE JEWS!!”

Herod set out to destroy the child he believed was after his throne. And in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Mr. Potter tries repeatedly to defeat George Bailey—the young upstart who, with his crummy little Building and Loan, defies Potter’s efforts to control the town. One of the saddest moments in “It’s a Wonderful Life” comes when George goes to visit Mr. Potter and asks him for an $8,000 loan. George’s Uncle Billy had misplaced $8,000 in cash, and the bank examiner is bearing down on the Building and Loan for an accurate account of their finances. What neither George nor his uncle realize is that Mr. Potter found the missing $8,000 and kept it for himself. Mr. Potter knew who the money belonged to, but he stole it so that George Bailey would be arrested and out of his hair once and for all.

George is at the lowest point of his life. Facing jail—but with a $15,000 life insurance policy in-hand—Mr. Potter’s taunting words keep running through his mind: “You’re worth more dead than alive.” So, after getting drunk at Martini’s Bar, George walks to a bridge and prepares to jump into the river and end his life. But he’s rescued by an angel named Clarence, who jumps into the river first and yells for help. Clarence knows that George will jump in to save him. And when George saves Clarence, Clarence can save George.

Afterward, God lets Clarence show George what life in Bedford Falls would be like if he’d never been born. And it’s ugly. George’s friends and neighbors live in Potter’s slums. The downtown area is riddled with crime. George’s brother is dead. His kids don’t exist. And his beloved wife Mary is an old spinster. Jail or no jail. George ends up begging Clarence to give him his life back. And next time you watch the movie, notice something: George is given his life back ... but only AFTER he stops crying out to Clarence for help and starts crying out to God.

When it comes down to it, George Bailey isn’t the greatest hero of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Clarence is more of a hero that George. Clarence saves George’s life so that George can save others’ lives. But there’s even a greater hero than Clarence: God Himself, who sent Clarence in the first place. And in the same way, the magi aren’t the greatest heroes in Matthew 2. God placed the star in the sky and set their course for Bethlehem. And God shone heaven’s spotlight on heaven and earth’s greatest hero: Jesus Christ—born to save the world. 

So many Christians gripe about Victorville without considering the “wonderful life” that God has given us in our own “crummy little town.” God does some of His greatest work through his followers who live in “crummy little towns.” George Bailey thought that Bedford Falls was a crummy little town. Many in Israel thought that Bethlehem and Nazareth were crummy little towns. And I bet that some of you think that Victorville is a crummy little town. Well, maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But regardless, I believe that God can and will do some of His greatest work right here in the Victor Valley. Some of you, like George Bailey, can’t wait to get out of the desert. Well, might I suggest that God could have other plans for you. Don’t underestimate God’s ability to work through you to do some amazing things right here in your “crummy little town.” God has you here for a reason. And His plans for you here might be much, much better than your own plans for you somewhere else.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Join us for church every Sunday at 10 a.m. at the new Dr. Ralph Baker School in Victorville. For more information, visit

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