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The village of Nazareth, rural and poor,
Held no importance, except to those
Who called the town home, paying taxes galore
And planting each season and doing each chore
With hope for a Savior to banish their woes.
Young Mary was chosen to be Joseph’s wife,
And God chose her to bear His Son.
She knew that a scandal could threaten her life
And cause her and Joseph unwarranted strife,
But still she submitted that His will be done.
She journeyed to visit Elizabeth then,
Her cousin, pregnant by God’s will,
Who knew Mary’s Son was the Savior of men.
When Mary returned to her hometown again,
Her pregnancy made people tempted to kill.
But Joseph was warned by an angel mid-dream
That Mary held God’s favor yet.
Regardless of how Joseph’s actions may seem,
He did not dismiss her, as most men would deem,
And loved her and He Whom she soon would beget.
The word arrived then of a census widespread,
That forced returns to old hometowns.
Since far Bethlehem beckoned him, Joseph led
A donkey that bore Mary ever ahead,
Across rocky country and uneven grounds.
The journey was hard, testing both faith and heart,
And when they came, there was no room.
The most that the humble locale could impart
For God’s only Son was a stable apart,
Complete with a star that above it did loom.
The angel pronounced to the shepherds nearby
That born was the King of Kings,
And after they’d worshipped the lowly Most High,
Three Eastern Magi, who had studied the sky,
Arrived to give homage with rich offerings.
Though Herod the king feared the end of his reign
And killed the children there,
The angel warned Joseph, who fled his domain
With Mary and Jesus, as God did ordain
To answer His own people’s prayer.

In so many cases, there is a disconnect to Bible stories. Both when we read of great deeds of the past and when we see films like The Ten Commandments, the characters take on mythological qualities that cause us to forget that they were real people, dealing with everyday life just like us, whom God chose for extraordinary purposes. The Nativity Story brilliantly emphasizes the humanity and vulnerability of Mary and Joseph, making them more relatable and real than any Sunday school lesson could.

Keisha Castle-Hughes plays a sensitive and courageous Mary, though I wish she didn’t look so continually melancholy. Oscar Isaac is the best Joseph I’ve seen thus far, presenting Joseph as the good man mentioned in the Bible but demonstrating that being righteous does not come without temptation and doubt. Their relationship is cool at first but slowly grows as Mary recognizes what a loving and honorable man she has married. Ciaran Hinds once again proves his skill as a villain as the brooding King Herod, and Shaun Toub of Iron Man is believably frustrated as Mary’s misunderstanding father. Shohreh Aghdashloo plays the trusting Elizabeth, and it’s interesting that this well-known Muslim actress is playing a Jewish character in a Christian movie.

Though it is clearly a Christian film, it isn’t preachy and utilizes more of the show-don’t-tell method, such as when Herod’s soldiers overlook humble Joseph and his pregnant wife because they are looking for a man of power. The actors themselves were touched by the film as well: Oscar Isaac said in an interview that in the scene in which he begs God for a sign, he actually saw a remarkably beautiful sunrise and had to hide his own awe.

The filmmakers took some creative license, such as downplaying the angel’s proclamation to the shepherds (probably for budget reasons), but the actual nativity scene is the most moving depiction of Jesus’ birth I’ve seen on film. There’s also the familiar misconception that the Magi were present with the shepherds, but that’s a minor objection.

I first saw The Nativity Story in the theater, and it has since become another Christmas Day tradition, a wonderful way to recall the real reason for the season. It’s not the most exciting movie, but it brings a simple Bible story to life in a relatable and beautiful way.

Best line: (Joseph, as villagers are glaring at their departure) “They’re going to miss us.”

Artistry: 9
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 8
Visual Effects: 6
Originality: 8
Watchability: 7
TOTAL: 47 out of 60

Next: #149 – Overboard

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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