It’s a Wonderful Life
It’s Christmas Eve – the night before we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Janet and I are just home from Kristin’s where we had our traditional Chinese carry-out and most of the family was there. Janet just set the TV to record It’s a Wonderful Life, the story of George Bailey and the fictional town of Bedford Falls. Jill let us know that she has, much to my surprise, never seen the movie. In case you are like Jill, it’s the story of a man who has big dreams but encounters problems and decides that his family would be better off if he had never been born. The plot of the movie is that he gets his wish and has the opportunity to see what would have happened if he had never been born. Of course, the end of the movie is classic and generations have enjoyed the escapades of George Bailey.
We saw Andrew and his family last evening, Jill and her family are in from Oklahoma and it’s been a lot of family and company or several days now. Saturday evening, we were together with friends doing a gift exchange with the kids when Connor lost his balance and ended up falling down against the bricks on the fireplace in the living room. Two loud pops and you guessed it, we were on our way to the hospital.
It was obvious that it was incredibly painful – and x-rays confirmed what we already suspected – both bones in his left forearm were broken clean through. The doc put on a temporary cast, and so Connor had an appointment with the orthopedic doctor this morning at 8:00 am. By 9:30, the exam was completed and Connor was being wheeled into surgery to fix the damage. He came through with flying colors – a new cast that will be on for a week and then probably a smaller cast for the next 6 weeks or so. Needless to say, we are relieved but there has been quite a bit of activity with all the family stuff going on.
As I am sitting here this evening, looking at the tree with all the gifts and the stockings, hung by the chimney with care, I can’t help but recall that this whole journey with the family started 40 years ago this evening. That’s right – I proposed to Janet on Christmas Eve, 1972. We went on to get married on August 24, 1973, but the journey started when we decided to spend our lives together on that Christmas Eve long ago.
We never could have predicted all the things that have happened since then. And there’s no denying that, like all couples, we have had our ups and downs, but through it all, I credit Janet’s faith and our deep love for one another that has helped us overcome every adversity we have faced – whether financial, medical or a crisis of faith every now and then. From finishing college, to the business world, on to seminary and then back in the corporate world, our lives have been a whirlwind. Since the beginning, we have had an apartment, a condo, 5 houses and then last year we purchased two more. Who would have thought?
Three children, six grandchildren, kids moving away, the passing of my parents and Janet’s grandparents; as well as other loved ones, including my closest friend, have all been benchmarks that we have passed along the way. I also never even considered that I would get ordained, or lead a ministry, or do half the things that Janet and I have experienced during our lives together.
And at a time when more than half of all married couples get divorced, even many years into their marriages, Janet and I can’t even fathom not being together. And it all started 40 years ago this evening. So, this morning I decided to commemorate the day by giving Janet a charm recognizing the anniversary of our engagement. I know it’s not special to anyone else, but it is to us.
So now, we are getting things ready for Christmas dinner tomorrow evening and then we will finish filling the stockings and getting the last minute gifts under the tree. In the morning, it will start all over again. Everybody likes to come here to open gifts. All three of our children and their families will be here – then we’ll have brunch together before everyone heads their own way to share the holidays with in-laws.
But in truth, it didn’t all start with Janet and me, it started with the birth of a baby more than 2000 years ago in a little town named Bethlehem. When the shepherds witnessed the miracle of the angels announcing the birth of Jesus. So tonight, as we wrap gifts, contemplate the year in review and look forward to the magic of Christmas, the verse tonight commemorates the birth of Christ long ago in Bethlehem.
Luke 2:8-12, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
My encouragement this evening is to let you know that the arrival of Jesus in the world was good news for all of us. Because of the birth of that baby, we and the rest of the world still celebrate the day that God took on human form to model a behavior he wanted us to follow. My prayer is that among all the toys and gifts, you will remember the real reason for Christmas and won’t miss the opportunity to share the Good News with your family on Christmas Day. Because when you think about it, it really is a wonderful life! Both Janet and I will attest to that. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace; and Merry Christmas!