Yuletide Yarns
Image: Illustration by Amanda Duffy

Authors Jerry B. Jenkins, Kathleen Norris, and Francine Rivers discuss the best Christmas stories not in the Bible.

Best Christmas Story? It's a Wonderful Life

Jerry B. Jenkins

I've always been a sucker for tear-jerking stories, but somehow I missed this Jimmy Stewart Christmas vehicle until I was in my 30s and had a young family.

We were visiting my in-laws, and a rare touch of insomnia (probably the result of too many holiday goodies) saw me flipping channels alone in the wee hours. As fate would have it, I happened upon It's a Wonderful Life just as it was beginning.

I had heard of it for years, of course. Many friends listed it among their all-time favorite movies. But the title alone had always put me off. What kind of sappy Frank Capra piece could it portend? I mean, Capra-esque had become a pejorative.

But I was riveted from the first scene—what appeared to be twinkling stars talking with each other. I was born at the end of the 1940s and was fascinated by the World War II period. Stewart reminded me of my father, who had served in the war. Donna Reed, who plays his wife, looked like my mother in her prime.

Watching the main characters cavort like children left me with a list of questions for my parents: Was that really the way it was? Did you slide in the snow on shovel blades?

Seeing the brothers become men and interact in mature and loving ways with their aging father made me long for the same with my three sons.

But when the engine of the story really revved up, I knew I was in it till the end. The saga of a man longing to leave his little hometown, only to discover that everything he sought he already owned, will never grow old. Quaint and old-fashioned, this 63-year-old ...

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December 2010

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