I saw The Nativity and wanted to love it and be moved by it and have my life transformed by it. Such wasn’t the case.
It was fine.
That, I suppose, is a view shared by most people, as the movie has not really taken off. One of the things that bothered me about the film was that it didn’t dig deep into the rich stories and explore what might have occurred. Gibson – whether you like him or not – did that in The Passion – whether you liked it or not. Perhaps most poignantly in Gibson’s film, there was the scene of Jesus carrying the cross to Golgotha and Mary following at a distance. At one moment Jesus falls and we see through Mary’s mind’s eye a flashback to him as a boy falling and skinning his knee and her carrying him. It gave Jesus the humanity that can so easily get lost when we read Mark’s account (“Then they led him out to crucify him. A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross,” etc.). Jesus, after all, was fully human.
This morning, I was reading the beginning of the whole story in Luke. In the first chapter, an angel has appeared to an old man named Zechariah who, along with his wife Elizabeth, was childless. The angel says that Elizabeth will become pregnant. Zechariah says something akin to, “Are you kidding me? I’m old.” The angel strikes him silent for questioning him. The story then moves ahead and Luke writes simply, “After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.”
Think about this for a second. Zechariah, an old man in a Viagra-free age who has also been struck mute, goes home from seeing an angel and has to convince his wife to have sex with him in hopes of fulfilling the angel’s promise? Are you kidding me? Can you imagine the look on Elizabeth’s face? I’m fairly confident that over the years Zechariah has used all sorts of lines to get jiggy with his wife. Maybe Elizabeth has used a few to convince him to get it on. But now they are old. Zechariah himself has basically told the angel he and Elizabeth don’t spend any time anymore rolling in the hay. “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”
This is ridiculous. It is hysterical. And talk about performance anxiety for poor Zechariah. You’ve got to feel for him. This is one of the great unexplored and unexamined Biblical miracles.
But wait, there is more. You’ve got to figure that they did it more than once. The angel said they were to have a son, but Gabriel didn’t say they only needed to have sex once. They wouldn’t know she was pregnant for a while. So did they spend an entire month bouncing around with each other like a bunch of bunnies?
The Nativity creators could have had some great (and very clean) fun with this whole story.
Though the filmmakers missed it, let no one say that God is without humor or that reading the Bible is boring. Sometimes you just have to let your imagination run.