The Nativity Story: A Great Christmas Movie

For the Christmas season I wanted to share one activity that my wife and I do to remind us of the birth of Christ. Every year to set our mind on the birth of Christ and the Christmas season we do something simple and fun, we watch the movie The Nativity Story. This movie was released December of 2006 by New Line Cinema and somehow it has grown to be a part of our Christmas tradition as a family.

What I really like about this movie is how it captures the “dirtiness” of the social and political context that Christ was born into. Often as a modern day Christian I don’t think about what it was like for a young betrothed couple to be selected by God to birth the savior of the world, and this through virgin birth, in a culture that could potentially stone for pregnancies out of wedlock. The Nativity Story goes a long way to capture the tension that this would have created in the small town of Nazareth as well as the internal struggle that Mary and Joseph must have wrestled through as they tried to walk out a life of faith in God. Every time I watch The Nativity Story I am struck with the hardship Mary and Joseph faced in their faith. There faithfulness to God’s plan cost them more than we will ever know and the The Nativity Story goes a long way in capturing the cost. Watching Mary and Joseph fight for faith in the midst of cultural pressure encourages me to face the world and stand firm for the Gospel of Christ. One of my favorite lines in the movie is Joseph’s sarcastic remark as He and Mary are leaving Nazareth on the way to the census in Bethlehem amidst condemning stares. Joseph looks to Mary and says, “I think they are going to miss us.”

The Nativity Story also really helps to conceptualize the oppression that was going on in first century Judea from Herod and the Romans. The Nativity Story portrays well the exorbitant taxes, soldiers stealing young women, the extortion of property, crucifixion of locals, and the killing of the young of Bethlehem. I am usually moved to tears at the oppression that God’s people were facing. The Nativity Story adds weight to the fact that Jesus came to help the weak, poor, and oppressed. I am always moved to show more compassion in a reflection of what God has down in Christ to our world. The world Jesus was born into was ugly. In our modern times as we wake up to the fact that our world is still ugly, particularly of late, it is a fitting reminder that Jesus and his family faced many of the same threats and fears that are prevalent in our age. Jesus was born into a dangerous and evil world. He can identify with our hopes and fears among this evil generation.

The way in which the The Nativity Story deals with the many appearances of angles, dreams and visions, and biblical prophecy is great. The movie moves my soul as scripture is quoted, particularly when Mary meets Elizabeth and Elizabeth quotes Luke 1:42-45. The Nativity Story reminds me of the mysterious ways that God has and does work in our world. Furthermore, it helps me to conceptualize what the experience of these prophetic and angelic moments may have been like. Joseph has a particularly intense dream to instruct him to take Mary as his wife since the pregnancy is of the Holy Spirit. As I wrestle with my faith it is healthy for me to think about how other believers have wrestled with their faith. The coming of Christ is otherworldly. Christ came as a revelation from God and the intensity and foreignness of the prophetic and angelic moments helps to reinforce the idea that our understanding of God and the coming of Christ is revelation. God entered our broken world from outside our world. One of the most touching scenes in the movie is of a lonely, poor shepherd that God reveals the birth of His son to. This particular shepherd is moved to tears as He sees and touches the hope of the world. So am I. Cue ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’…

As with any motion picture based on the Bible. There is a fair amount of liberty taken filling out the historical details and expanding the dramatic features of the text. The Nativity Story should be commended for its accuracy in depicting the advent of Christ as portrayed in the Gospel of Luke and the liberties it has taken only serve to enhance the story. The only scene that seems to stray from the biblical story in any significant way is Zechariah’s encounter with an angel of the Lord in the Temple. In The Nativity Story Zechariah is confronted by a facial figure made of the incense from the altar. Luke 1:11 records an angel appearing next to the altar of incense. Furthermore, if the dialogue of Zechariah’s encounter is not listened to carefully in the movie one might think that YHWH is speaking where Luke records the prophetic speech to come from the angel. All and all The Nativity Story holds very close to the biblical account and the few historical liberties and biblical anachronisms do not distract from an excellent and moving portrayal of the advent of Christ.

Finally, Jesus is born in cave stable. A CAVE STABLE. I have watched the birth of several of my children and I cannot imagine the complexities of birthing a child outside in a makeshift barn. The germ-a-phob in me also cringes every time as I watch the Savior of the world being born into the dirt, hay, and animal feces. This is our Savior. God born as a baby in a makeshift stable. The God of the universe in human form. He took on flesh, made of dirt, and touched dirt with his feet. He was born into a dangerous world, our world, where his life was threatened everyday. He was poor and afflicted and came to relieve the same. Christ came for the people of Israel and He came for the world. His mission was to die on our behalf so that we could have life.

Let me encourage you if you have never seen The Nativity Story to pick it up this Christmas season and set your heart on advent of Christ. It has been a blessing to our family.

*It is also fun to note that Joseph after successfully adopting and parenting Jesus went on to be an amazing X-wing fighter pilot in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens. In all seriousness, Oscar Isaac who plays Poe in The Force Awakens played the character of Joseph in The Nativity Story.

*The use of the image above in no way reflects the views of the artist that produced the image.
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