Our family saw "The Nativity Story" at a local movie theater on Sunday afternoon. The story about the birth of Jesus Christ is told in a very compelling way. We get a little insight into the culture and times of Jesus' mother and adoptive father. The town of Nazareth is portrayed as a dirty and poor community in which people take God seriously and children enjoy their lives. The Roman Empire rules without mercy, and King Herod is a duplicitous and paranoid politician who is obsessed about messianic prophesies from the Jewish scriptures.
"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20, NIV).
"But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort" (Luke 6:24, NIV).
Those two verses came to mind as we saw the contrasts between King Herod and Jesus' family.
In Mary, we saw a young woman who made a quick transition from being a girl to a responsible woman when she became engaged to Joseph. Although she struggled with the idea of being married to Joseph, she came to love and respect him as she saw his exceptional qualities lived out. Mary came across as a firm believer, even though nearly everyone (except her much older cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist) doubted the supernatural origin of her pregnancy.
The Bible describes Joseph as "a righteous man" (Matthew 1:19, NIV). In the movie, we get a good idea why. When confronted with Mary's unexpected pregnancy, he is heart-broken. He had chosen to marry her because he had always viewed her as a young woman of noble character. To think that she may have committed sexual immorality tore him up. He said that he had always pursued honor in his life, but it becomes obvious that he did not care to be honored by people so much as to live honorably before his God. He took Mary as his wife and Jesus as his son despite the negative opinions of his friends, neighbors, and others. In marrying Mary, he allowed himself to be thought of as having committed sexual immorality with her.
We saw Joseph secretly return a donkey to his future father-in-law, who had lost it to tax collectors. After paying the taxes for Mary's father, he returned the donkey without letting him know that he had paid the taxes for him. Later, when their donkey was becoming weak on the long trip to Bethlehem, Joseph attempted to share his meal with the donkey secretly so that it would have the strength to continue carrying Mary. ( He never knew that Mary saw him trying to take care of her in that way.) I was reminded of Jesus' words, "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven" (Matthew 6:1, NIV).
The scenes with the shepherds were the most touching of the movie. We saw how God showed special favor to some men who viewed themselves as far from special.
The magi were interesting, but their scenes may have been the least accurate. For some reason, they were not warned in a dream against returning to see Herod, but they seemed to figure out on their own that it was a bad idea. On the other hand, I liked that they were portrayed as astronomers rather than astrologers.
The Nativity Story may be the best biblical movie ever made. The character development made it the most thoughtful biblical movie that I have ever seen. I hope that others will enjoy it as much as I did. I'm looking forward to getting it on DVD.