In the long season of my empty nest, one gift to myself each Christmastime is Frank Capra’s 1946 fantasy, It’s a Wonderful Life. Filmed during World War II, released in 1946, it seems I’ve known from childhood the story of George Bailey and his beloved Bedford Falls Savings and Loan.

For my father loved movies and television, and it’s entirely likely my sisters and I first watched It’s a Wonderful Life when it first aired in 1956.

One Christmas when a younger mother, I introduced my three daughters to George Bailey’s and Mary Hatch’s romance. One of my favorite scenes is Mary’s high school graduation dance where she and George gather an ecstatic crowd. The two kick and stomp the Charleston as they dance closer to the edge of the gymnasium floor, opened with intent for George and Mary to fall backward into the swimming pool.

Invention at its best.

About a decade ago, I added the DVD of the movie to relax for a few hours during the hurried Christmas season. Without fail, I’m reminded this truly is a wonderful life, regardless of all the Mr. Potters, thieves who sit in high places of power and influence.

Last night, after packing and wrapping gifts for celebrating this Christmas with my California family in their home, I reclined in my reading chair. Again, I laughed when Mary and George fell into the swimming pool.

I reserved the last half of the movie for this evening, the night before my departure for the San Francisco Airport. I’ll watch Mary and George’s family grow to four children. Poor Uncle Billy will unwittingly leave the day’s cash deposits for Bailey Bros. Building and Loan wrapped in a newspaper in Mr. Potter’s bank.

Deceptive, greedy, and hateful, Mr. Potter will tell George he’s worth more dead than alive.

George will believe his false accusation and determine to end his life.

Upon the prayers of Bedford Falls reaching God in Heaven, Clarence, the angel, is summoned to save George.

With much difficulty, Clarence guides his charge through Bedford Falls, reveals what his mother, Mary, and Bedford Falls would be like if he’d never been born. Clarence resolves, “You’ve lived a wonderful life, George.”

The angel fulfills his earthy mission and earns his wings. The people of Bedford Falls rally to bail George Bailey out of Mr. Potter’s evil plot.

Dear Reader, America needed this fantasy at the end of World War II. We needed its message during the Korean War. The Vietnam War. And perhaps we would better understand the present war with Israel and Hamas if we prayed to God who reigns high above us, and within us.

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

I celebrate Christmas, pray for my family, neighbors, and our country. Thank God for this wonderful life.

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