Saturday, December 16, 2006

the nativity story movie

This week we took the kids to the theater to see the new movie "The Nativity Story".

It can be quite expensive, so we don't really go to the movies often. But I feel really strongly that if Christians are going to complain about the junk and destructive stuff that comes out of Hollywood...then we need to also put our money where our mouths are. We need to vote with our dollars for them to create quality stories that portray morality, integrity and faith values in a positive light.

With that in mind, we made it a point to give our box office dollars to this biblical narrative of Christ's birth. So how was it? some ways it was just OK. In others ways it was very good!

The Just OK
Biblically it honors the culture and context and mostly stays true to the accounts of Scripture. But there are some liberties taken.

Herod is portrayed as being knowledgable of the prophecies concerning the birth of a Messiah. Whereas the Bible says he had to call together the scholars of Jerusalem to inform him on the prophecies.

The wisemen from the east show up immediately at the point of Christ's birth. Whereas the Bible implies that they came months (or maybe even years)later. But of course, they had to get wide-angle money shot of "The Tabletop Nativity Scene". The assembled shepherds, animals and wisemen were there to pose for the obligatory obligatory Kodak moment. While not accurate, I guess it is to be expected.

The Star over Bethlehem was presented with an interesting theory. But that is all conjecture that will probably add to people's confusion over what the Bible does and doesn't say.

The birthing scenes were a bit much. The birth of John the Baptist and Jesus were both presented with the mother's legs outstretched and much grunting and groaning. I watched my son out of the corner of my eye, and he looked a bit confused. I appreciate that they didn't gloss Christ's birth over with the candy-coated "Silent Night...all is calm and bright and peaceful and quiet and painless" Christmas fluff. But the sight of it all was a bit more than young children might be prepared to observe. It isn't graphic or inappropriate. But it may prompt questions about "babies" that you would rather postpone answering with your youngest kids.

And my worst criticism is for the length. I know that character development takes time. But the plot seemed to drag along unnecesarily. While it is tender and beautiful, attention defecit and boredom creeps in near the middle of the movie.

The Good
The scenery is beautiful. The characters are well done. You learn quite a bit about the culture and daily life of Jewish common people under the Roman Empire. And c'mon...this is part of the greatest story ever told!

I found myself getting deeply wrapped up in the characters of Mary and Joseph. Their relationship evolves in a very realistic way. I never expected to find the movie including a gentle and romantic love story.

Really that was what touched me the most in the movie. Joseph is represented as a model for every man, husband and father. I literally felt my heart yearning to become more like him. If every man could be as patient, courageous and faithful as Joseph...this world would be a better place.

For me the movie presented a window into what the "Holy Night" could have been like. I admit...I even leaked a few tiny man tears. But don't tell anyone!