With its everyman protagonist George Bailey, It’s a Wonderful Life is the epitome of a classic Christmas movie. When a financial crisis hits Bedford Falls, the Bailey Building and Loan runs out of money and a warrant is issued for Bailey’s arrest. After enduring an existential adventure and a supernatural encounter with his guardian angel, Bailey recognizes just how wonderful his life is. Ultimately, he is saved by the generosity of the people to whom he has been so generous over the years. Bailey was made righteous before the law by the goodness of others who were reciprocating his generosity to them.
We are also saved and declared righteous before the law because of how Someone else loved us, but unlike George Bailey, we didn’t do anything to deserve the love we have been shown.
This time of year, we can get so caught up in the cuddly, cozy idea of sweet baby Jesus that we forget His birth was just one of many shots fired in the war for humanity’s salvation. The Advent season is for us to remember the beginning of Jesus’ life as a human, but John 1 tells us that this baby was no stranger to that which was to come.
In Colossians 1:14, Paul writes, “In [Jesus] we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” This is no small truth. The redemption Jesus purchased on our behalf is like the ransom paid on behalf of a slave or prisoner. Before He bled and died on our behalf, we were hopelessly chained to our sin with no desire or understanding of what it meant to be free.
Despite our rebellion, Jesus Christ paid the debt of our sin so that we, who call on His name, would no longer be held to account for our inability to uphold the law. We have been saved by a love we cannot earn and do not deserve.
Now, because we have been shown the grace of God and have been forgiven our debts, we have been commissioned to forgive the debts of those who have sinned against us (Ephesians 4:32). The Christmas season is, indeed, a season of giving. But this Advent, alongside whatever gifts you may be wrapping and tucking under the tree, consider those to whom you should give the gift of forgiveness—the ultimate gift given to us by our Savior, so that we might give it to others.
Written by Chris Martin