Selected Books and Motion Pictures

The Nativity Story

Starring Mary by Keisha Castle-Hughes; Joseph by Oscar Isaac; Elizabeth by Shohreh Aghdashloo; King Herod by Ciaran Hinds  
Directed by Catherine Hardwicke,  Harvey Harrison (II), Andy Lumsden
Produced by Catherine Hardwicke, Michael Rich, Tim Van Rellim
Distributed by New Line Cinema

Mary, (
Keisha Castle-Hughes)
The Nativity Story is a re-enactment of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.  Set in the backdrop of the Roman occupation of Israel, the story portrays the angelic announcement to Zacharias of the birth of John the Baptist; and to Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes) of the birth of Jesus.  The story line includes Mary's stay with Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary's travel to Bethlehem, the birth of the child and the night-time visitors, and the family's flight to Egypt to escape the jealous wrath of Herod.

One senses the reluctance of Mary to an arranged marriage with Joseph (Oscar Isaac) and the pain of her rejection when her family and her betrothed discover she is with child.  But as Joseph is instructed by an angel to take Mary as his wife, the couple bond.  Joseph becomes protective and Mary responds.

Joseph (Oscar Isaac)

The viewer is pulled emotionally into the story, reliving the incredible event of the birth of the Son of God.  Mary and Joseph are believable.  King Herod is faithfully portrayed as the murderous paranoid that he was.  The traditional view of the three wise-men provides relief from the somber themes of the plot.

The Christmas Story has gathered a number of accretions over the centuries that cannot be supported Biblically.  Scripture does not tell us how many magi there were, and it certainly does not give us the traditional names of Melchior, Balthasar, and Gaspar.  The screenplay has the magi arriving at the same time as the shepherds.  They did not - the wise-men found the baby and his parents in a house in Bethlehem, not a stable (Matthew 2:12).  In a most unfortunate omission, the angel Gabriel in the movie does not inform Mary, "and the Lord God will give Him [her son] the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end" (Luke 1:32-33, NASB).  At least Joseph understood (though his screen angel neglected to mention) that he was to name his son Jesus "... for He will save His people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21).

The Miracle of the Incarnation

Aside from these few anomalies The Nativity Story is a faithful rendering of the Biblical event.  The birth of the most profound and unique human being is accurately portrayed.  The wonder, the mystery, and the poignancy are there.  This is, without a doubt, a must see.  Though there is violence at the beginning from Roman soldiers, what is shown is tastefully true to the Biblical record, which does include violence.  This is a film to which one might take his whole family, assuming his children were at least of elementary school age.

Reviewed by James T. Bartsch,

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Updated June 22, 2015