The kids poke fun at me, but every Christmas Night since they were small, I have requested that we sit down as a family and watch Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s just Mom’s silly old Christmas tradition to them, but every year as “the most wonderful time of the year” draws to an end and the New Year looms up close, this message is one I need to hear and remember: that an ordinary life of self-sacrifice and love can make a difference in our home, our town, our world.
When you look back on the year past and see only the small everyday necessities of keeping everyone clothed and fed and getting along…when you wish you had more time to pursue your hobbies or read that pile of books… or when you long to see far-away places and accomplish something that matters in the world, like George Bailey did…maybe feel like life is passing you by… or maybe it isn’t even worth anything any more…this is when you need to see through God’s eyes, how one life well-lived has a ripple effect that only Heaven can measure. Like George’s guardian angel said:“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?”
We gather around the table with my sister’s family after Christmas, and share a goal for the coming year, tell the others how to pray for us. I wish I could say I was working on a graduate degree, writing a book, traveling halfway around the world, opening a Bed & Breakfast, or really any significant goal at all, but I’m coming up empty right now. It’s a strange place to be, for a person who sets goals and makes plans as naturally as setting the table. But life continues to present a maze of unpredictable circumstances and chaotic detours into the necessities of the everyday, and I feel like I am still waiting to discover who I am going to be when my kids grow up. So I tell the truth, that in the coming year I am just living and listening for God’s voice, and I need wisdom and direction. And I think of George Bailey and the reminder that not everything worthwhile is exciting or even visible. And the Spirit whispers, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.” (Matthew 25:40) The apostle Paul takes up the refrain with “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
Fact is, in this New Year, whether you are a planning goal-setter, or a big dreamer, only God knows what will fill up the hours and days to come. And only He knows what is worthwhile and meaningful in the long run. I will carry this annual reminder from the old classic film, as I go into the coming year, to keep on doing what is right and good in my little corner of the world, for Jesus’ sake, and let Him make of it what He wills… wait to see what unexpected doors of opportunity He will open in 2013.
“Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.” (Clarence in book inscription, It’s A Wonderful Life)
“But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28