A year after “It’s a Wonderful Life” made its lukewarm debut, “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947) was released with much fanfare. After all, it starred some of the biggest movie actors of all time; Cary Grant, David Niven, Loretta Young, and Monty Woolley, for starters. This movie was a huge hit, getting 5 Academy Award nominations (it won one for sound recording). And while IAWL was barely religious, TBW was about as close to a “Christian” film as a secular move could be. After all, it had an angel, a bishop, lots of church scenes, and a sermon about a baby in a manger. What is interesting is that while IAWL did poorly and is now one of the most recognized and beloved movies ever, TBW has faded into anonymity.
“The Bishop’s Wife” is my favorite Christmas movie for a number of reasons, the first being the way it addressed vanity and sacrifice. Since most of you probably haven’t even heard of this movie, much less watched it, I will not give anything away. What I will say is that this movie addresses the core values that Christianity should aspire to; its lesson about priorities and good stewardship are still important to all of us, especially those of us who worship in opulent sanctuaries like the church I serve. The movie challenges us to do our best to glorify God while being mindful of the many people who don’t have enough. It strikes at the greed that seems to overwhelm us this time of year; the wants that drive us, and the needs that go unmet.
I know that among those who know me, I have become infamous (and quite annoying) for my yearly tilting against the windmills of secularity and greed at Christmas. I know that I am not alone in this, just very vocal. In conversations with colleagues, they too fret over the fact that Jesus has lost to Santa, and greed has won the day. They moan, like I do, about the minimal effort too many church members give to further the work of Jesus. Many of us agree that a big reason churches are dying is due to a lack of interest among those who say they are followers of Jesus and have promised to do God’s work as a community. Other clergies might not be as vocal as I am, but they are right there with me.
You and I only have control over ourselves; this is true in almost every aspect of life. The only person I can make better is me, and the same goes for you. You can decide to live differently at all times; you can decide to keep, as they say, Christ in Christmas. You can decide to be more generous and more loving and more – everything. And while so many people are worried about supply chain problems ruining Christmas, you and I can focus on what really matters now and for the rest of the year. You and I can make life better in our neighborhoods and at work and where we worship. We can complain all we want about the way we wish things could be, but if we don’t do something to make it better, we are just being whiners. This December, I hope you will objectively look at your life and consider how to make it more of a Jesus thing. I plan to do the same. This is the only way we will make the positive changes the world needs.
Prayer – Help us to do acts of kindness, God of hope, for as many people as we are able. May Your love shine through us today. Amen.