I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
-- John 10:10
One of the most endearing parts of Christmas and New Year's is to 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 World War II 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 and apply it to the Person whose birth we recently celebrated. What if Jesus of Nazareth had never been born? Can you imagine what kind of life we would have without the Lord Jesus Christ?
It would be a life without hope. Hope and her first cousin, faith, is the confident expectation that there is more to this life than what we 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.
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.
It would be 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. But Jesus brought love to a higher level.
Jesus brought us abundant, overflowing love, teaching us to love everyone, 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 brought us eternal, sacrificial love. 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.
It would be a life without 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 is a fine feeling; however, it does not last. 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 10,000 joys. But without Jesus, there is no salvation, no such joy, no such abundance, no such life.
It would be a life without peace. 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 off from the hope, love, joy, and peace of Heaven, which cannot be attained if Jesus had not been born.
But, He has (ref. Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 2:11-14)! Christ has come, and His testimony is this: "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly" (ref. John 10:10). By grace through faith you can have this life, and have it abundantly, full of hope, love, joy, and peace. When Jesus Christ is Lord, it is a wonderful life!
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected].