IN THE NOVEL "A Tale of Two Cities," the opening line reflects the true sentiments of this holiday season: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

It is the best of times for those who have family surrounding them with laughter, memories and gifts, for those who have their health and strength, and for those who have the financial resources to pay for all the things that come with this season.

As the song goes, "It's the most wonderful time of the year."

On the other hand, "it is the worst of times" for so many who find themselves supporting aging parents, coping with the death of a loved one, lamenting over the loss of a job, dealing with a shortage of funds for necessities, struggling with chronic illnesses, trying to handle a nasty divorce or worrying about wayward children. Equal attention must be paid to both sides.

If I include only the "worst of times" side, I run the risk of turning this time of the year into something it was never intended to be. If I include only the "best of times" side, I exclude so many hurting people.

This can be reconciled by reflecting on the true meaning of this season: the birth of Jesus, who was given to save, deliver and comfort those who are in need. The search for forgiveness, purpose, meaning and comfort is not relegated to any group. It encompasses the rich, poor, black, white, male and female.

God's definition of need has nothing to do with gifts under a tree, Christmas carols or even being together with family and friends, but a need that goes far deeper.

Our culture tries to deny that this need for forgiveness, purpose, meaning and comforts exists. I am reminded of the box-office flop "It's a Wonderful Life" starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed.

It was considered a flop because when it was released in 1946, it failed to meet desired expectations. In 1970, it started to air on television each Christmas season. It is now considered one of the greatest films of all times.

How can a movie go from being a flop to one of the greatest movies of all times in just under 25 years? Nothing changed, but the time of the year it was viewed.

"It's a Wonderful Life" was never intended to be a Christmas movie. The story was simple. It focused on a man by the name of George Bailey, who never seemed to get ahead by the world's standards, because he was a good guy who always built up others. He later began to think his life totally insignificant until he got a glimpse of what his hometown would be like without his seemingly meager contributions. After realizing the impact his life had made, he returned with a renewed optimism.

I believe that the Christmas-season success of this film is no accident. During this time of year so many people struggle with feelings of inadequacy and uselessness. It is a fact that there are more deaths, more cases of depression, more breakups and even more suicides in the midst of all the parties, food and religious services. This simple movie supplied a little comfort.

Let's not forget that this season marks the time God sent his son to comfort, console, forgive and motivate us. For those of us who are Christians, let's use this time of the year to comfort others with the comfort we ourselves have received from the Lord. When others focus on the wonderful life of things and stuff, let's share the abundant life of forgiveness, meaning, and purpose of life.

Maybe we can learn from the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" that the message that seems to fall on deaf ears during the other parts of the year might just be a box-office hit during this season. *

Each Saturday the Daily News offers men and women of faith the opportunity to share their words of life and comfort with our readers.

If you are a minister, a priest, a rabbi, or the head of another religious organization and would like to submit a faith-based column, contact Lorenzo Biggs at 215-854-5816, or by e-mail at biggsl@phillynews.com.