Features

"What would Luke write?"

""What would Luke write?"" Continued...

Issue: "Kids' books," Dec. 2, 2006

There is a heavy emphasis on the humanity and somber conflict of the Christmas story. The slaughter of the innocents, the disdainful looks of Mary and Joseph's friends and family, the arduous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and the political oppression of Herod's tax-gouging despotism are all prominent.

During the filming, the Magi's approach to the manger rattled Hardwicke's perception of Christmas. "They stop and see that their expectations are completely inverted," she recalled. "They were looking for a king and they found a humble situation, a baby born with animals. It's an overwhelming notion that God chose this manner of sending His Son. It really struck me for the first time on a deep level how amazing that was, why the story is so enduring, why it moves people so much, and why it is so inspiring."

-Steve Beard is a writer, columnist, and creator of Thunderstruck.org

Cure for Christmas malaise

Review: Nativity reminds us of a shocking story

By John Dawson

New York City pastor Tim Keller once said it's easy for conditioned Christians to miss the "swoosh" and "boom" of the Christmas story as it moves like a train through the American holiday season. Years of hearing the same nativity narrative can make us numb to elements that should shock us every time: The Son of God became man, chose to be born of a young teenage girl who gave birth in the utter lowest of circumstances.

If the story has grown empty in our hearts, it's a malaise The Nativity Story can help cure. The partly imagined account of the events leading up to Jesus' birth gives flesh and form to the birth accounts of Matthew and Luke. In that way, The Nativity Story and The Passion of the Christ provide on-screen bookends to Jesus' life.

Considering the money Mel Gibson made with The Passion's non-Hollywood narrative of Jesus' death and resurrection, Tinseltown didn't want to turn this one down. When veteran screenplay writer Mike Rich pitched a script of Jesus' birth to Hollywood executives, they jumped on the opportunity.

On screen, the film dazzles with sets and costumes that rival some of the best period pieces. It imagines the lives of Mary and Joseph prior to their betrothment. A very young Mary catches the eye of an older Joseph because of her virtue. Mary's father sees Joseph as a way for his daughter to escape the extreme poverty of Nazareth. Then the Angel Gabriel comes. The story ends with the young family's flight to Egypt to escape the murderous Herod. Along the way, some Hollywood shines through: Impending peril mars Joseph and Mary's journey to Bethlehem; three wisecracking Magi provide sporadic comedy relief.

The Nativity Story will make a lot of money-and that's probably a good thing. Despite some extraneous Tinseltown noise, it's hard to miss the booming mysteries of Christ's birth. As one of the Magi says when he arrives at the stable: "The Greatest of Kings, born in the most humble of places."

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