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My two favorite Christmas movies: It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol with Alistair Simm have as their final climactic, life-changing moment a confrontation with death. Both movies wind their characters around to graveyards – for Scrooge to see his own tombstone and for George Bailey to see the tombstone of the brother he wasn’t there to save.

Isn’t this a little morbid for Christmas?

Actually, did you know that when It’s a Wonderful Life was first released it wasn’t a major hit with the 1946 audience? They thought it was too depressing a movie for the holidays.

What is this strange interplay of Christmas and death? Is this really rather morbid for a holiday that’s supposed to be about life and giving and family?

I was thinking about that during my annual viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life. As I indulged my annual Christmas cry while watching, I realized.

It’s not the confrontation with death we like about these stories – it’s the reclamation of life afterwards that we love. It’s Scrooge dancing around his bedroom in his underclothes, making plans to send a Christmas goose to Bob Cratchet. It’s George Bailey running through Bedford Falls, shouting “Merry Christmas” or exclaiming, “Isn’t it great?! I’m going to jail!”

It’s people who’ve been living in darkness seeing a great light of life.

That’s how I celebrate this Christmas. As one who was formerly dead. As one who lived in darkness. As one without the power to change myself or to give myself joy, peace or satisfaction.

And as one who has seen the light of life!