It's a Wonderful Life (Sermon Series with Drama)

July 24th, 2012

This five part series for Advent uses the classic holiday film, "It's a Wonderful Life," as a creative vehicle to preach the lessons of Advent. The approach was especially effective as we related ancient texts (lectionary Year A) to contemporary settings using classic film.

Each week of the series featured a clip from the movie, followed by a brief dramatic appearance by an actor depicting a character we had just seen in black and white. That actor expanded upon the theme for the day and then lit the appropriate Advent candles.

First Sunday of Advent
“It’s A Wonderful Life: Endure It"

Isaiah 2:1-5 and Matt. 24:36-44

As we wait in the “in-between” times before Jesus comes again there are many seasons. Especially during this time of the year when the “to-do” list is extra long, how do we endure and find meaning within the daily grind?

Film clip: The Last Meal – Scene 6 (George and his dad, Peter Bailey, at the dinner table)

Drama: Peter Bailey

PETER BAILEY: George had endured much up to that night. I would know—he is my son. I wanted all the things he wanted. I had a glimmer of hope that he would take over the Building and Loan, but deep down I know he's made for more. He is still young. He hasn't learned that there is blessing, hope and joy even in the small moments of my “shabby little office”. For me, the quickest answers to prayer have been where I have asked God to change the way I look at things. I am sure somehow, George will come to that realization on his own. As we light our first Advent candle, we celebrate the patience and strength needed for the enduring path.

Second Sunday of Advent
“It’s A Wonderful Life: Hope In It"

Isaiah 11:1-10 and Matt. 3:1-12

We have hope that God’s Kingdom will be established on Earth even in the midst of life’s imperfections because of the presence of Jesus with humanity.

Film clip: Scene in which George tells off Mr. Potter and Uncle Billy comes out of the office excited. (transition from video when Billy hollers, “You shoulda heard him!”)

Drama: Uncle Billy (With bag of nuts and strings on his fingers to help him remember.)

UNCLE BILLY: Boy, oh boy, George really told off that Mr. Potter. He was great! You should’ve seen him. Well—of course—you just did! The one thing I like about George is his tenacity. His hope for the future. No matter how bleak the circumstances seem, that George knows things can be better. Just like his Father. . . . Now let me see. What was it I am supposed to do? (he checks his strings on his fingers and mumbles through a mental list) . . .Oh yes, Advent, yes . . . As we light the second Advent candle, we celebrate the hope of God's kingdom being revealed through Christ's coming.

Third Sunday of Advent
“It’s A Wonderful Life: Believe It"

Isaiah 35:1-10 and Luke 1:47-55

With God, all things are possible. Mary believed this when the angel told her about the special role she would play in the birth of Jesus. Will we believe it?

Film clip: George's realization on the bridge that he wants to live, and then runs into his house. (transition from video when George hollers, “Look at this wonderful, old, drafty house! Mary?”)

Drama: George (Running in, hollering, as if just through the door.)

GEORGE: Mary! Mary! Has anyone seen Mary? Have you seen Mary? I hear she has some great news! And I don’t think it has anything to do with Mr. Potter or the Bank examiner. No, No. It’s a miracle! We light this third Advent candle with all the joy of an expectant mother and an expectant people, expecting the miracle of Christ's coming.

Fourth Sunday of Advent
“It’s A Wonderful Life: Trust It"

Isaiah 7:10-16 and Matthew 1:18-25

Joseph trusted in God and kept Mary as his wife even though society’s rules told him he shouldn’t. In what ways are we being called to trust in order to play our part in God’s story?

Film clip: George and Mary in their car after their wedding and George runs to the Building and Loan in the rain and lets everyone in.

Drama: Mary, with umbrella

MARY: You know, I’ve heard that rain on your wedding day is a sign of a blessed marriage. I had so many hopes for that day and had no clue as to how it would turn out. But then, (she gestures the screen) life happens no matter how many plans you make. George showed the part of himself that day that I have seen in him all along. It’s why I married him. Impossible odds, not knowing what direction to take, yet not giving up on the belief he had deep in his heart for those nearest to him that he loved and cared about. As we light this fourth Advent candle, we celebrate God's promise—a promise we can always trust.

Christmas Eve
“It’s A Wonderful Life: Treasure It"

Luke 1:1-20

Jesus’ life was and is a gift to be treasured for all people of all times and all places. Our lives are also a gift to be treasured and used for God's glory.

Film clip: Final scene, from the point Mary runs to meet George on the stairs until "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" begins. Congregation can join in singing with live accompaniment as video fades out. ZuZu enters as the carol ends.

Drama: ZuZu

ZUZU: Those people gave my daddy the best gift we could have asked for that Christmas. And we never forgot it. A gift like that makes you want to pass it on and share the joy. God gave all of us a gift like that. (Adult lights Christ candle.) Let's light this candle and never forget the gift God gave us in his son Jesus Christ.

The classic Jimmy Stewart film is an enduring favorite because it tells a story of despair and hope we can all relate to. Advent tells that story too, and with the film as a vehicle, people can experience God's good news anew in the hope of Christ that overcomes the despair of the world.

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