Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Advent 2020

Angels and Messages

The Angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life”

There’s something very special about the film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  It may be that lovely American family life and community spirit, or the tear-jerking story line.

It’s very difficult not to be fascinated by the appearance of an angel in a time of need.  The angel, in human form, is called Clarence; and we are immediately entranced by his simplicity and mission.   Is it because he’s a cute old man….or is there something more spiritual? – The possibility, the longing within us, that God really can send an angel to help us? Or that God really can speak to ordinary people at their lowest point?

The Gospel Reading – Luke 1.26-35

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.”  But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you……””

The Wonderful Pattern of the Lord’s Speaking

“On many past occasions and in many different ways, God has spoken…

 (Hebrews 1.1)

When Gabriel visits a young Miriam (Mary) the atmosphere is enthralling! Even here, we can see a shape to the way the Lord communicates with us:

  • The lovely warmth and encouragement God brings,
  • The reassurance of the Lord’s protective presence.
  • The sense of God’s mission in our life,
  • Strengthened by the promise of His blessing.
  • Most wonderful of all, as we ponder our own inadequacy – “How can I possibly do this?” – short, simple words – the Holy Spirit….

A characteristic of Luke’s writing is his attention to the Lord’s pattern.  Luke is saying, this may not be you, but God will work in the same way in your life! What a glorious thought!

The Other Angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life”

The magic of cinema enables us to see what life would have been like in Bedford Falls if George had never existed.  It’s only then we see the full impact of his life in that community, and begin to see that he too is….. an angel – God has used him mightily to bring blessing to many, many people.

Lord – make me a blessing!  Lord make me a rescuer and restorer!

A Final Note on James Stewart, the Actor who Plays George

When George reaches rock bottom in the film, James Stewart acts out George’s tremendous intensity of despair – there is a disturbing reality in the  way he plays this sequence in the story.

Stewart was highly commended by several film critics for his performance.  Once, when interviewed, he was asked where he found that authentic portrayal of despair.  James Stewart, who was also a committed Christian and an Elder (Warden) in his church, said that as the scene was filmed, somehow, the Lord brought into his heart the plight of so many people across the world who really were in that that desperate situation and it was this that moved him to tears.

  • Lord, I know that often you have tried to speak to me, and I have turned away.
  • Lord give me a softness of heart and a mind open to Your speaking.
  • Lord move me.
  • Lord give me a joyful obedience to your will.
  • Lord make me a messenger, so that I might bring blessing into the lives of others.
  • I ask these things in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.