This past Sunday night, my wife and I watched The Nativity Story. It was a movie I wanted to see last year when it came out but just never got around to it for one reason or another. Of course Christian movies from Hollywood always make me skeptical because I’m afraid they purposely or mistakenly misrepresent the story, deviate from Scripture, or only release the movie because of some fad. The Nativity Story did not suffer from these all-too-common errors.
The film begins with a dark tone; it portrays Herod’s soldiers killing all of the babies two years and under in Bethlehem. At first I thought this was a very strange place to start (i.e., a little late in the time line) the Christmas story. However, this was only an opening scene which soon flashed back to the time where the angel appeared to Zacharias to announce the coming of John the Baptist from which the remainder of the story proceeded.
I’m not writing this blog post to summarize the movie but rather to critique it from a Christian perspective. As I mentioned in the paragraph above, the movie begins with a dark tone; nonetheless, parents of young children should not be overly concerned as the scene is non-graphic and short-lived. The remainder of the movie is less intense though some mature topics are dealt with (as they should be). For instance, the movie portrays Mary’s concern with how her miraculous virgin conception will appear to friends, family, and the community at large. You must remember that having children out of wed-lock in those times was punishable by death. The movie also shows the harshness of Roman soldiers and of Herod’s concern for potentially losing his rule.
Despite the harsh realities of the time, the movie manages to bring some light comic relief (at least for me and my odd sense of humor). I thought the wise men were particularly amusing—not in a bad way either. The movie shows them arguing with each other about following the star and then complaining to each other throughout their journey (which is probably not to far off base from the truth). On a couple of occasions the wise men say “if I’m right…and I usually am.” To me this is just wildly humorous because so many times the more brilliant people of our world often feel that they are right most of the time…and these wise men actually were!
Hopefully, the last two paragraphs have sparked your interest and pointed out that the movie was cleverly thought out rather than dully depicting what is often thought as a tired-out story by some. Please note that I do not in any way think the birth of my Lord and Savior is dull, I’m just saying that some critics do. The film was well made and did not have the appearance of being another way under budgeted Christian movie. To me the picture quality, acting, and sets were well done. To more critical movie watchers this may not be the case, but I’m rarely one to complain about acting or sets.
The main concern I had going into this movie was whether the movie accurately followed the Gospels, not the movie making quality. I must say that overall I was pleasantly surprised. On more than one occasion Scriptures were quoted.
The film did not deviate from the fundamental truths of the Gospel story. To make any full length historical film, some interpretations of characters’ thoughts and actions have to take place; The Nativity Story is no exception to this premise.
The biggest inaccuracy that stood out to me was the announcement of Christ’s birth to the shepherds. The film only shows one angel proclaiming the birth of Christ which is technically accurate according to Luke 2:10. The film just doesn’t go to the next stage and show the heavily host praising God as they did in Luke 2:13-15. Another potential error is the time period of the wise men’s arrival. Many people believe that they arrived well after the birth of Christ rather than immediately as the movie illustrates.
Now, I’m no Roman historian or scholar some I’m not going to try and analyze the portrayal of the time period, costumes, and other historic events that occur throughout the movie. So if you’re interested in reading a more detailed analysis of those aspects of the movie then I suggest you check out the Christian Answers website.
Could there have been more Christian themes and focus? Yes, but isn’t that the case with every Christian’s life? So why would you expect a movie to be different? I guess one other thing I would like to have seen is more of a focus on why Jesus came to earth as a child.
Christmas is often looked upon as the most important Christian holiday but to me Easter stands out because it truly emphasizes the love God had (and continues to have) for us by sending his Son to die on the cross so that we may be pardoned from our sins and have the opportunity to spend eternity with Him if only we will only we will ask for forgiveness of our sins and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, I recommend The Nativity Story for its positive representation of the greatest story of all time even though the movie had a couple of minor issues. I think this is a classic movie to share with friends and family and hopefully spark discussions about the most important event in history, God the Son coming to earth as a man to save people from their sins against Him.