A WONDERFUL LIFE
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
— John 10:10, ESV
One of the most endearing parts of Christmas for our family, and probably yours, is to sit down and once again watch “It’s A Wonderful Life,” the 1946 classic Frank Capra film starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. It ingeniously shows the lead character, George Bailey, what his world would have been like without him. It’s a bleak picture, as you know.
His younger brother, Harry, didn’t live past nine years, the age at which George would have saved him from drowning. The soldiers Harry saved in WWII died, too, because Harry wasn’t there to save them because George wasn’t there to save Harry. On and on it goes, until the whole town of Bedford Falls becomes the dark and decrepit domain of the film’s antagonist, Mr. Potter, so much so that the terrible place is then called Pottersville.
But, of course, George Bailey did live, at least in the annals of fiction. And the people, families, and entire town of Bedford Falls are better for it. His is a wonderful life.
I want to take that thought, etched as it is in our minds at Christmas, and apply it to the Person whose birth we celebrate today. What if Jesus of Nazareth had never been born? What if He had not lived and died and lived again to fulfill the promises of Holy Scripture? Can you imagine what kind of life we would have without the Lord Jesus Christ?
A Life Without Hope
Biblically speaking, hope (ref. Hebrews 6:11) and her first cousin, faith (ref. Hebrews 11:1), is the confident expectation that there is more to this life that what we can currently see or experience. There is an abundance beyond the material things we can hold in our hands, and there is an eternity to be enjoyed, that on its worst day will be infinitely better than the best day we’ve ever had on earth.
Hope pulls us through life and ushers us into the life to come. Consider Andy Dufresne's testimony, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” Other prisoners perished without this hope, but hope pulled Andy through the darkness into the light, so to speak.
But without Jesus, there would be no profound hope of an abundant, eternal life. We’d just have to waddle through and wonder. We could all be Jews, I suppose, hoping for the Messiah to come. But if He didn’t come, wouldn’t come, had not come, there would be no hope, only ultimate death and final judgment.
A Life Without Love
Love has always existed among certain people and expressed in various ways, even before and presumably without Jesus Christ. It is human nature, part of the imago deo, to love one’s family and friends. Our forerunners in the Christian faith, the Old Covenant Israelites, were taught to love God and their neighbors. But Jesus brought love to a whole higher level.
Jesus brought us abundant, overflowing love. He taught us not just to love God, family, and neighbors, but even our enemies, a radical concept that if followed could actually lead to the elusive world peace every Miss America contestant promises to attain. Jesus abundant love overflows with forgiveness, reconciliation, kindness, even ultimate sacrifice.
Jesus brought us eternal, sacrificial love (ref. John 3:16). He personified agape, and made God’s love for us imminent and well as transcendent. Without this love, where would we be? We might be able to enjoy some of our earthly relationships, but we’d be cut off from God and banned from the Heavenly home where love abounds eternally.
Without Jesus, love would be at a dangerously low ebb, and there would are no proof of God’s actual and personal love for us.
A Life Without Joy
Of course, a life without God’s deep love would be a life without true joy. If joy is an acronym, put Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself third, then there literally would be no joy without the “J.” I suppose we’d have to settle for happiness.
Happiness if a fine feeling; however, it does not last. A dog is happy when he’s fed. You are happy when you get that car with a bow for Christmas, but how will you feel when it passes two hundred thousand miles?
Joy is an abundant, overflowing feeling you get when you receive something priceless, eternal, secure in the heavens. The only such gift available today that gives this kind of joy is salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, that is not alone, for it comes with ten thousand joys.
But without Jesus, there is no salvation, no such joy, no such abundance, no such life.
A Life Without Peace
We’ve saved the worst for last. Without Jesus Christ, there would be no peace, not in the abundant, eternal sense. We could still peace out, sign peace treaties, but we’d have no ultimate peace with the person who matters most, God.
The reason we need peace is not to save us from war, but to save us from our sin (including the sins that cause war). Sin separates us from God, makes us veritable enemies of God, and cuts us of from the real hope, love, joy, and peace that come from God.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (ref. Romans 5:1). People have taken to the streets in recent years crying, “No justice, no peace.” The cry Christians should be raising to the rooftops is, “No Jesus, no peace.”
But if Christ had not come, not lived, not died, not lived again, not promised to return, then there would be no hope, love, joy, or peace.
A Life Without Christ
A life without the Lord Jesus Christ would be much bleaker than those dirty, frozen, grey streets of Pottersville. A life without the Lord Jesus Christ would be a hope unfulfilled, and love incomplete, a joy unknown, and a peace non-existent. The end of such a life would be the greatest tragedy of all.
But you do not have to live this life.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this” (ref. Isaiah 9:6-7).
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (ref. Luke 2:11-14).
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (ref. John 10:10).
Repent, and never stop repenting. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and never stop believing. You will have life, and have it abundantly, full of hope, love, joy, and peace. When Jesus Christ is Lord, it is a wonderful life!