I love movies with happy endings. My wife and I keep these “feel good movies” in a special place so we can easily find them when we need cheering up. It’s a Wonderful Life is one of our favorites. The look on George Bailey’s face (played by Jimmy Stewart) when he is reunited with his family at the end is pure joy.
On Christmas Day I drove my 93 year old friend Joe and his wife Marian to the 10am service and sat with them. He isn’t able to go to church regularly any more because he’s very frail. Many of his friends hadn’t seen him in several months and greeted him happily before and after the service. The music was spectacular! The priest brought him communion where he sat, in the front pew. At the end, I looked over at him, and he had his eyes closed and his head bowed. I don’t know what he was thinking but he had an expression of joy on his face. That was the best present I received that day.
Joy is connected with something that transcends current happiness. George Bailey realised that his entire life was meaningful, epitomised by the love of his family and all the people he had helped over the years. I think my friend Joe realised on Christmas Day that this earthly celebration is only a faint foretaste of what is in store for him shortly.
When the angel said “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people” it wasn’t just about the current moment — the birth of the Christ child. The great joy of this event is that it proclaims a happy ending for all humankind and creation. As the poet T.S. Eliot wrote in Little Giddings, paraphrasing Julian of Norwich: “And all shall be well and All manner of things shall be well.” When next you experience joy in your life — and I hope that happens often — take time to remember that joy is God’s hint about happy endings.