Movie Recommendation: The Nativity Story

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I took my family today to see The Nativity Story.  It is a tremendous movie.  It is not only reverent but extremely moving.  The script if faithful to the Bible, though with the usual artistic liberties (such as the three magi arriving the night of the birth and the Magnificat being sung by Mary as they depart for Egypt).

The screenwriter has said in an interview that he approached Mary and Joseph by examining the biblical account for their character traits, and then fleshing these out in the script.  This was very successful.  He also chose one of the plausible theories for the star of Bethlehem and applied that approach to the magi.  Also well done. The strengths of the movie are the way it portrayed the primitive conditions of life in ancient Israel, the dignity and reality displayed by all the main characters: Zechariah, Elisabeth, Mary, Joseph, and also the political oppression of the Jews.  It reminds you that when the Jews thought of the Messiah primarily in military and political terms, they had reasons for doing so.  I also thought the depiction of Herod was terrific, as was the depiction of Zechariah.  The movie is restrained in showing the slaughter of boys in Bethlehem and also the actual births, so it is kid friendly.

Some themes that came out strongly are these:
1) Depicts Joseph and especially Mary as real people -- which they were.  Mary is de-sainted -- you know what I mean -- and comes across in a most lovely way.  As others have recently urged, we need to regain our interest and love for Mary -- not as a demigodess but as one blessed among women indeed. 
2) Joseph comes to life as an exemplar of godly manhood.  He plays a very large role in the movie and it is done beautifully.  A great example of what a godly man is.  There is also a great scene when Joseph and Mary are traveling to Bethlehem, where they imagine what this child will be like.  "Will I be able to teach Him anything?" Joseph wonders.
3) The Mary - Elisabeth relationship is powerfully -- if briefly -- brought to life.  There is one beautiful scene where the young girl and her older cousin -- one bearing the Messiah and the other his forerunner -- place their hands on each other's womb with looks of wonder.  It is not difficult to imagine this happening in real life.  Also, the movie brings out the point that barren Elisabeth's pregnancy was a confirmation to Mary of the angelic promise made to her.  Though she believed, she must have wondered -- and Elisabeth's pregnancy and faith must have been a great encouragement.  I was disappointed however, that the Magnificat was not placed here.
4)  The movie also brings out the theme of faith gaining understanding.  All the main characters believe the word that is spoken to them.  But then they have questions and doubts.  Their faith is then confirmed by a sign.  Mary through Elisabeth, Joseph through the angel.  It shows how God is so good to nurture weak faith, and also how faith comes first and only then comes seeing.  We live by faith, and then faith gains sight.

Take your family to see this movie.  It deserves the support of Christians, since so few others seem to be showing interest.  Just as there was no room in the inn for baby Jesus, there also was no one in the theatre to see the story of his birth.  (Besides my family, there were only two others for the matinee.)  And if you are not moved when Joseph and Mary arrive in Bethlehem with birth pangs upon her, as Joseph races from door to door seeking a place for the birth, and then as the light of the star shines upon the faithful couple as the Savior is born -- well, I just don't know what to say.  Seeing this movie helped to focus our family on the Lord this Christmas in a wonderful way.

Posted December 18, 2006 @ 10:55 PM by Rick Phillips
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