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The Nativity Story is, in this father’s opinion, a worthwhile family-friendly film. It is uplifting and clean. It contains no profanity, sexuality, drugs or what modern culture calls “alternative lifestyles.” And it’s basically violence-free. What more could you ask for?
Well, how about a bit more attention to detail.
In terms of biblical accuracy The Nativity Story—like dozens before it—was clearly created to entertain and to attract the largest possible cash-paying audience. It’s very appealing to Protestant Christians, and it’s designed not to anger Catholics or Jews (see the insightful comments in the review posted on ChristianAnswers Network, linked below). Its primary purpose is to turn empty seats into filled seats, not to get all the details straight and properly educate.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the idea of creating good, clean, family-friendly entertainment. I wholeheartedly commend those who use their talents and abilities to inspire and entertain via the silver screen. The potential Kingdom benefit is tremendous. But when we’re talking about Bible “stories” such as this one—that portray the culture, relationships and events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ—accuracy is essential. So is connectivity. I’ll get to that in a minute.
Since the film does take liberties (some may call such liberties “artistic license”) and actually changes or misrepresents a few clear facts surrounding the nativity event, parents and Christian leaders must be sure to commend the good, yet point out and discuss the film’s foibles. Why? So that young and unaware audience members don’t take the film as gospel truth over the Gospel accounts themselves, as has happened to millions who have repeatedly viewed the movie The Ten Commandments (featuring Charleton Heston as Moses) and who think that the events portrayed there are scripturally accurate, which they clearly are not.
Pointing out error, especially in a film that Christians want to be able to simply watch and enjoy, is not popular. But it is important. So is the need for what I call “connectivity.” By this, I mean connecting the dots that link events on the timeline of history.
Like almost any typical Christmas sermon, The Nativity Story presents the birth of Jesus as the foundation of Christmas. But the birth of Jesus actually was the first Christmas. So where was the foundation for Christmas?
The foundation for this history-shaping event was laid some 4,000 years earlier when, immediately after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, mankind was sentenced to die. It was in that moment that “God in His mercy gave a promise of redemption through the One who would be born of a virgin—Jesus Christ.” (Read the “Foundation of Christmas” section in Making the ‘Christmas sermon’ relevant for today’s culture.) That promise is found in Genesis 3:15. It was because of the events of Genesis 3 that Jesus, the Creator of the World, had to be born as a human. As society understands the connectivity between the Christmas story and the Creation account they begin to get the full picture of the Gospel message. Without a literal Genesis, there is no need for a literal Savior! Without Genesis 3, Luke 2 makes no sense.
After viewing this much-anticipated “Christmas film” and then reading the reviews posted on two of the more conservative-minded Christian review sites (ChristianAnswers.net and PreviewOnline.org), I find myself compelled to talk about one more subject that most professional reviewers thus far have chosen to overlook. That is the timing of the magi’s visit to the Christ-child in Bethlehem. Although numerous factors (scriptural and logical) indicate that the wise men visited sometime after the night of Christ’s birth, the modern tradition of portraying three kings on three camels with three gifts was too strong for the film’s producers to attempt to correct. I participated in a teleconference several weeks ago during which the film’s writer and producer said exactly that. So, even though the film contains some excellent teaching points, it intentionally perpetuates the clear inaccuracy regarding the wise men’s visit.
Other concerns are worth discussing, too. I earnestly recommend that you read the above-noted online reviews and viewer comments prior to taking your family to The Nativity Story. It’s entertainment with a lot of great information and messages, but it’s not completely accurate. Enjoy it for its family-friendly entertainment value, but beware of and expose to those in your care its portrayal of inaccuracies in the guise of truth.
You’ll be surprised at the excellent discussions that can follow a visit to the movie theater!