FIRST-PERSON: ‘The Nativity Story’: ‘wow’ not ‘ugh’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Sad to say, "Christian" films often do one (or both) of two things -- they either make Christians look silly or they misinterpret the Bible.

When I was invited to an early screening of "The Nativity Story" in mid-October, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Thankfully, the feature film about the events of Christ's birth, which opens nationwide Dec. 1, portrays "the greatest story every told" with compelling acting, beautiful cinematography, moving music, cultural authenticity and, best of all, biblical accuracy.

It's a Christian film with all of the "wow" factors you want from a Hollywood production (realistic costumes, impressive locations, believable characters and dialogue) and none of the "ugh" factors you often find in films of the genre (sappy dialogue, cheesy costumes, preachy/melodramatic characters).

Both the Mary and Joseph characters are complex and fallible -- necessary qualities in a good protagonist. They're not perfect, which makes their accomplishments all the more inspiring.

I found myself reciting the biblical account several times during the action and even the dialogue. One example of the film's beauty is Mary's visit to her cousin Elisabeth, who is expecting her own child, John the Baptist. In the film, Elisabeth is facing the camera as Mary approaches her house and calls her name. Immediately, I thought of Luke 1:41: "... when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost." I was not disappointed by the film's portrayal of this reaction.

Ever since I was a young girl, I've wondered what Mary must have gone through during her pregnancy. Did she try to convince anyone she was telling the truth or did she just accept that she'd be an outcast? Did her own parents believe her? Or any of her friends? Surely Elisabeth must have been such a comfort to her, if only to assure her that she wasn't crazy.

The film does a masterful job of dealing with all of these emotions, yet with admirable faithfulness to Scripture. So many snippets of the biblical account we've all heard so many times kept popping into my mind during the film. It's as if the filmmakers wanted this to happen. The film truly does bring the biblical story to life, and it does so without downplaying the supernatural (Jesus' deity, Elisabeth's advanced age) or overplaying its audience -- a fine line that the filmmakers walk successfully.

I can't recommend the film highly enough. It's a great opportunity to share the story with unbelievers (without risking embarrassment) and to relive the story yourself.

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