If you care about spirituality, go see “The Nativity Story.” Much of the film is more understated and muted than the typical church Christmas celebration and may challenge some of the holier-than-thou notions we have of some of the Biblical characters. It film also lacks Santa Clause, reindeer and any remnant of snow. But it’s the most accurate cultural telling of the story we’ve had since “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and stays true to the Biblical record for the most part.
I also liked it because it’s a rare, meaningful film that will be highly valuable for families and teens. As Mary is told of her betrothal to Joseph, she is confronted by the fact that she doesn’t have a hand in choosing. “You are to consider him your husband in all ways,” her father says, but she must wait on the issue of “that which leads to family.” Mary storms off, in a way that seems natural for a teenager but unnatural for the icon we know as Mary, The Mother of Jesus.
She’s not only a frustrated teen but also an anxious one when she miraculously becomes pregnant. “Are you frightened?” asks her cousin Elizabeth. “Yes,” she says with candor and clarity. “Elizabeth, why is it me God has asked? I am nothing,” Mary says.
Pastors and priests have sermonized and homilied for years, trying to emphasize how embarrassing it must have been for Mary and Joseph when she was found to be pregnant. But I think the visual image of the bashful Mary and the humiliation and disappointment of Joseph will get through even to the current ( and somewhat permissive) American audience.
She gains courage, of course, from both the angel and the promise of a sign from Elizabeth. Her parents are unimpressed. “Elizabeth has a baby,” Mary offers, “even in her old age.”
“Elizabeth has a husband,” replies her dad. Mary’s mother says, “They could stone you in the streets.”
“Father,” Mary says as respectfully as she can, “I have broken no vow … I have told the truth. Whether you believe is your choice, not mine.”
Such it is for all of us, regarding the Christ child. And such it is that “The Nativity Story” is a must for all who desire to learn about the role of Christ in their own spiritual journey.