It’s A Wonderful Life
A Sunday school teacher once asked her class of children: “What is Christmas a time for?” Many of the kids gave the usual answers—Jesus’ birthday, a time of joy… but one child responded it was “a time for sportsmanship, because you don’t always get everything you want.”
Have you ever received a gift that you just outright didn’t want. You unwrap a present, fake a big smile, thank the giver as sincerely as possible, and then take the item home and wonder, “What were they thinking? And what am I going to do with this thing?” Several years ago “USA Today” conducted a survey to find out what people do with that not-quite-right holiday gift and they found out that:
31%: Keep it 30%: Hide it 13%: Toss it 12%: Re-Gift 6%: Return it
I’ll admit that I have done every one of those five options. But I also want to be honest and say that sometimes the problem is not the gift, but that I cannot see the value or beauty of the gift. Today we are continuing our series on Christmas at the Movies, by looking at some of the greatest Christmas movies of all times. Our movie this morning is “It’s a Wonderful Life”. It’s a beautiful story of a man George Bailey who had been given a gift that he wasn’t sure he wanted. Let me show you a clip.
In the movie George Bailey is allowed to see what life would’ve been like if he’d never been born. And through one event after another he finally understood how wonderful his life had been; he was able to see the impact he had made in the world and how much the world would had lost if he had never been born.
One of my favorite moments in the movie is when Angel Second Class Clarence is watching George and says: “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives and, when he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
Whether you know it or believe it, your life has made a huge impact on this church, this community, and this world. I understand that we all go through those times in our lives when we wonder if our lives have made an impact, or if they have any meaning at all. But let me reassure you this morning that God has never, ever, made a single mistake. There is a plan and reason for everything in His creation. That includes mosquitoes, roaches, sunsets, mountain ranges, the stars in the night sky and especially you.
From the very beginning we notice that there is an order to the way God created everything. God separated the water from the land before He created the birds of the air and the fish in the sea. There was light before there were trees, because trees need light to live. After every thing God created He called it good.
Then you get to Genesis 1:26 and we read Now let Us conceive a new creation, made in Our image, fashioned according to Our likeness. … So God did just that. He created humanity in His image, created them male and female. Then God blessed them … Then God surveyed everything He had made, savoring its beauty and appreciating its goodness.
We, you specifically, were created to be the image bearer of God. God looks at you and savors your beauty and calls you good. Your life is a beautiful gift from God, you have value and worth in God’s eyes. Unfortunately we don’t always see things the way God sees them. Usually we judge someone’s worth by what they can contribute. We say someone is valuable because they are gifted athletically, or musically, or intellectually. We think because someone can put a round ball into a hoop, or weave two words or two notes together in a pleasing way, or remove a tumor that they have value.
What we so often fail to acknowledge is that because we were created in His image we have immense value, you have immense purpose, and like that little sign my parents hung on my bed room wall, you are someone because God don’t make no junk! And while the grammar may make your skin crawl, you get the point. You are God’s gift to this world, and you are gifted to be a blessing to our family, community, and all creation.
In the text that was read for us this morning from Romans 12:4-5 Paul said: one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another. Your value, my value, is found in the fact that we belong to God, we are created in His image, and placed into His body.
I want you to take out your bibles or pull out your phones and tablets and look with me at 1 Corinthians 12 beginning in verse 12 – 26. Once again Paul is going to use this body language, and at the same time he is going to remind us why our lives are a gift. Let’s read the text.
You life has value because you are indispensable. Paul writes: On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.
Have you ever seen a kidney? Unfortunately because of a few stones, or boulders, I saw mine about 17 years ago. I know you will find this hard to believe but my kidney is not very attractive. We would much rather look at a face, or an arm, or even a knee than to look at a kidney; but only if the kidney is doing it’s job. Have you ever seen someone in kidney failure? Their skin turns yellow, they get rashes, and their arms and legs swell. While we cannot see our kidneys and we don’t think much about them, they are vitally important. God has deliberately made the outward parts depend on the inward parts.
One of the great misconceptions we have is that we believe our value and worth is based on how visible we are. In our country we have folks that are famous for being famous. That’s messed up, the only thing they have to offer is that they are famous, and I have no idea why.
We tend to think the folks who are the most visible are the most important, even in the church. We think that the minister, Bible school teacher, or song leader is more valuable than someone else because you see us standing in front of you all the time. We think, I am just a member so if I am not there, or active, or participating then it’s not that big a deal. But the truth is God has placed you here on purpose. It’s not an accident that you are a part of this body, it’s not happenstance that you have been gifted in such a way that you are a blessing to us.
I believe that I am important, valuable part of this body. But I also believe that there are folks who will never stand in front of you, never serve communion, never lead a prayer or a song who have equal value and importance. What kind of body would we have if there was no one to share their gift of mercy? How much would the body suffer if there was no one to share their gift of giving? Who would want to be a part of a body that was missing the gift of encouragement?
Service, encouragement, mercy, giving, administration, understanding, wisdom, and faith may not be the gifts that we parade out front of everyone but they are vital to the life of this body. You may not have the gift of speaking, but God has given you a gift that makes you a valuable part of the body of Christ and desperately needed.
Think about it this way; who played a bigger role in the kingdom Paul or Barnabas? Paul established churches, the last part of the book of Acts is dedicated to his work in the kingdom. He wrote 13 letters that have been included in our New Testament. Paul could definitely be called the face in the kingdom of God. We could even be justified in saying that Paul was of utmost importance.
But without Barnabas, someone gifted with encouragement, we would never know who Paul was. It was Barnabas who vouched for Paul in Acts 9. It was Barnabas who encouraged Paul to continue on after they had been beaten and run out of town. Not the face, not the writer, not the one who spoke with power and used deep reasoning. But one gifted in encouragement.
You have value, you matter, you are important because God has gifted you and placed you in the body. And every part of this family is equal and important. Age, color, wealth, gender, and place of birth are pointless in this body, because Christ came and died for everyone. Or as Paul said, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
You have value because you make unity possible.
Our text says that there should be no division in the body, God has deliberately designed this body to love unity and hate discord. Now you understand that unity does not mean uniform. Unity means that all of the parts are working together for a common purpose or common goal. Unity does not mean that we must all think the same way. If you look different from me, or talk differently, think differently then you are needed and have immense value as a part of this body.
The best way I can explain this is by talking a little about salads. Stick with me here. When Trista and I first got married money was tight, so we made cuts and adjustments where we could so that we would have plenty of money to pay our bills. One of the places we had to make cuts was in our food budget. It was during this time in our lives that we were introduced to honeymoon salad. If you have ever had a honeymoon salad you know that it consists of iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing; that’s it. Technically it’s a salad, but it is missing so much.
A little while later we were able to afford some more things and we began to buy tomatoes and carrots to go in our salad, and while it was better it still was missing so much.
Finally we got to the point where we were able to get arugula, butterhead lettuce, radishes, bell peppers, onions, olives, cheese, bacon, almonds, sunflower seeds, purple cabbage, and croutons. Now we have a salad, where every flavor mixes and mingles with every other flavor.
That’s kind of like the body of Christ, in a weird sort of way. For the body to be whole it has to have all of the different parts and flavors mingled together bring out the beauty and flavor of the other parts. Remember in our text Paul said: a body is one whole made up of many different parts, and all the different parts comprise the one body; You belong to this body and your inclusion to this body makes unity possible.
For us to have real unity we have to have different parts. Each part is vital to the body: If the whole body were an eye, it would not be able to hear. If the whole body were an ear, it would not be able to smell anything. If each part of the body were the same part, there would be no body. But as it is, God put the parts in the body as he wanted them. He made a place for each one. So there are many parts, but only one body
Every part of my body needs every other part. I am very attached to my hand. I use it to touch, to write, to pat, to hold, to grasp, I use this finger to type. And it is very useful to me as long as it is attached to my body. If it were to come off it would no longer be useful to me.
You were created in the image of God and given unique talents and gifts that are needed in this body. Every part of this body was put here by God on purpose. Your value is found in how you are connected to the body, a hand or foot that is not connected has lost not only it’s value but it’s ability to live. You are a gift that we desperately need and we are a gift that you desperately need.
Unity might not mean conformity but it definitely means connectedness. I have mentioned before that everyone in this body should have at least three people that they can call during times of distress and people with whom we can share our joy. People who pray for you, people who you share with, people who you spend time with talking about struggles and successes. People you are connected to.
Science tells us that most of us will die, not from an outside attack, but from an inside attack. Every year people die in car wrecks, or from gun shots, or bomb explosions. But that’s not our biggest killer. Every year more people die from heart attacks, or cancer, or strokes, attacks from the inside when the body goes to war with itself. The same thing happens in the church when we forget that we are valuable and have a responsibility to one another. We lose sight of what it means to have membership in the body, and we miss the blessing.
Something I have noticed is that the people in our community are not opposed to baptism. They are not opposed to giving up drinking, swearing, carousing, and dating women that do. They are willing to give up everything this world has to offer if they can find a place that values the gift God has created them to be. We all want to find a place where we truly belong, and feel wanted.
As we close this morning I want to remind you one more time what Clarence said: “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives and, when he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
Your life is a gift from God, and I know there are times when you are not sure what to do with that gift, and you want to hide it, give it back, or exchange it. But God made you on purpose, and when you aren’t around you leave and awful hole.