Kenneth L. Samuel
"Let all the people of Jerusalem shout God's praise with joy! For great is the Holy One of Israel who lives among you." - Isaiah 12:6
The classic movie "It's a Wonderful Life" is a modern parable about how we often fail to recognize and appreciate the awesome value of where we live and what we have and what we do. George Bailey believes that he is trapped in his hometown of Bedford Falls, New York, and watches enviously as his brother leaves home and finds success and love abroad. George stays home and deals with mounting problems in the family business, even forced to cancel his honeymoon plans.
The only thing that saves George from drowning in the despair resulting from his inability to leave his hometown is when his eyes are opened to the infinite value of the family, the friends and the work that he's had all along in the very place he'd been struggling so desperately to escape. The contempt that he'd harbored for all that was familiar gives way to a wonderful recognition of just how wonderful life is where he lives.
The temptation to chase waterfalls and rainbows in distant places among distant faces is always alluring. The quest for the beautiful always seems to take us away from our own backyards. It takes a special advent of the divine to help us see the profound value embedded in our own community. It takes a special advent of the divine to help us discover the infinite worth amidst the finite frustrations of our mundane encounters. And as insignificant and inconsequential as we sometimes think our work may be, there is a great gift in just getting a glimpse of how our everyday service to those around us impacts the course of history and affects the trajectory of countless human lives.
Israel could certainly affirm and celebrate the universal greatness of the Holy One. But the people of Israel were also invited to see and to celebrate the Holy One who lived among them. The Holy One who came to his own. The Holy One who walked and talked and loved among them. The Holy One called Emmanuel – God with us. The greatest gifts of this season are the ones for which we don't have to search abroad.
Universal, Omnipresent, Ubiquitous One, We thank you for your presence, your peace and your power among us. Right here, right now, among us! Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.