George is to be commended for his sacrifice - it's a willing sacrifice but there's also an unwilling aspect to it - you can just see it in his eyes, how he carries himself, the slumped shoulders, the resignation...it hurts.
And it's fiction. Good fiction, but still just a story.
Here's another little story of sacrifice. A ship was sinking in the middle of a storm, and the captain called out to the crew and said, "Does anyone here know how to pray?" One man stepped forward and said, "Yes sir, I know how to pray." The captain said, "Wonderful, you pray while the rest of us put on life jackets--we're one short." That would be a completely unwilling sacrifice.
In real life, we make sacrifices - willing and unwilling, real and imagined. We work hard to support family, put in long hours to advance in careers, do whatever it takes to make sure loved ones are safe. There are also what I would call the silly sacrifices - time, effort, and money spent on hobbies or habits, non-essential things but things we enjoy.
But there is no sacrifice like the sacrifice shared in the Bible. Seems like we usually pull out Isaiah 53 and go over it with a fine-toothed comb during the Lenten season, especially Good Friday, It's so vivid, so clear, so real. The Savior sacrifices because of you and me and our sadly impressive accumulation of sin and guilt. He does it willingly, completely offering himself as our ransom payment.
These words are so familiar, so profound, we can read most of them without much comment. But can we read them now, during Advent? Absolutely. Remember that we look beyond the child in the manger to the Christ on Calvary. Remember that the wood of the makeshift crib will one day give way to the wood of the cross and his indescribable, incomprehensible sacrifice.
“We all have gone astray like sheep. Each of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord has charged all our guilt to him. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth. Like a lamb he was led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent in front of its shearers, he did not open his mouth. He was taken away without a fair trial and without justice, and of his generation, who even cared? So, he was cut off from the land of the living. He was struck because of the rebellion of my people. They would have assigned him a grave with the wicked, but he was given a grave with the rich in his death, because he had done no violence, and no deceit was in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and to allow him to suffer.” (Isaiah 53:6-10a)
At this point in the chapter, there is a definite change in tone. “Because you made his life a guilt offering, he will see offspring. He will prolong his days, and the Lord’s gracious plan will succeed in his hand. After his soul experiences anguish, he will see the light of life. He will provide satisfaction.” (Isaiah 53:10b,11) Out of death, life. From the death of the Savior springs life for all who believe this good news. And he, the Savior will see his offspring, his spiritual descendants. The cross wasn’t the end of him. It’s not just that his memory lives on – HE lives on, not just spiritually, but physically – in the flesh.
God declares: “Therefore I will give him an allotment among the great, and with the strong he will share plunder.”(Isaiah 53:12a) Why? “Because he poured out his life to death, and he let himself be counted with rebellious sinners. He himself carried the sin of many, and he intercedes for the rebels.” (v. 12) It’s all about the sacrifice. George Bailey’s fictional sacrifice resulted in a happy ending in a make-believe story. Our Savior’s real sacrifice results in a glorious ending grounded in reality. It’s a wonderful life – more than the title of a beloved movie, it describes our life in Christ – now and always.
In Christ Jesus,
Pastor Stephen Luchterhand