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The Nativity Story is the first Biblically-based movie to be produced by a major film company since the epic Ben-Hur (1959). Epic The Nativity Story is not, at least not on the grand scale of Ben-Hur or The Ten Commandments (1956), with lavish sets and thousands of extras. No, the strength of The Nativity Story lies in giving us a glimpse of the real lives and real emotions of real people.

Mary, a young girl forced into marriage to an older man she barely knows. Joseph, who chooses this girl because he sees in her a rare purity. Elizabeth, the godly older woman who understands Mary when no one else does. Joseph’s raw agony when he sees, in front of the entire city of Nazareth, that his bride has been unfaithful, and then his unbending commitment to his wife when he learns the truth. Mary, learning to love and trust and respect this man who is willing to share and posses her lifelong humiliation and ostracism from the people who were once her friends.

The film is simply and realistically set, and is supported by a strong historical context. The music in many places contains haunting reminiscences of well-loved Christmas carols.

As Christians, we believe “Jesus is the reason for the season,” but we have heard the story so many times, it has become flat. The Nativity Story reminds us that the people God chose to take the most important roles in the birth of Christ were ordinary people like us with dreams, disappointments, hopes, and fears.

The Nativity Story

Yes (in response to your comments), some viewers may find themselves disappointed with the “extra” things they slipped into the movie. This was exactly how I felt at the beginning of the movie. Righteous indignation welled up in me…”Mary wasn’t like that! God chose her to be the mother of Jesus because He knew she was and would be the most godly woman to ever live and was the only woman in all of human history worthy enough to be the mother of the Savior! She would never have engaged in a wrestling match, no matter how playful! She would never sulk or run out of the house when forced to marry Joseph!”

But is that true?

The Bible doesn’t say that she did those things (and therefore I agree that it was “creative license” that inserted those events), nor does it say she didn’t do those things. Actually, it says very little about Mary’s character. If you think about it, we’re actually told more about Joseph’s character than Mary’s – that he was a righteous man (Matthew 1:19). All we are told about Mary is that she found favor with God (Luke 1:30), but we aren’t told why. Was it because she was more godly than anyone who had ever or would ever live? Maybe, but the Scripture doesn’t say that. Could it have been that God, in His sovereignty, rather chose to use a flawed young girl who would be submissive to His plans?

Luke shows us Mary was godly and knew the scriptures (Luke 1:46-55), but it doesn’t say that she was perfect, always decorous, always respectful to authority. I think we get that picture into our minds, especially at this time of year. In our mind’s eye, Mary is a figure dressed in blue silk with hands folded and a halo around her head.

In reality, Mary, and indeed all the people God used who are recorded in the Bible, were flesh and blood humans just like us. God didn’t choose to only use perfect people, because there have never been and never will be perfect people. He uses people who, through no other virtue of their own, are willing to be used for His glory. That is a lesson The Nativity Story drove hard home to me. I have no excuse to look at the people of the Bible and sigh because I will never be as good as they were – good enough to be used by God. God chooses imperfect people like Mary, and yes, even like me, to accomplish His purposes in this world, and I am so thankful for that.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Well, Hannah, I can understand your feeling that we have “no business filling in the gaps.” Its certainly true that God has chosen what He will and will not reveal to us in Scripture.

    Nevertheless, we do fill in the gaps of our favorite Bible stories, whether we realize it or not. There’s a beautiful audiobook by Gordan Atkinson (Real Live Preacher) that presents a narrative of the Christmas story. The author is the first to admit it’s a fictionalized version, but he did some research before writing it, and he points out some details that most of us have “filled in” unintentionally. It’s quite interesting.

    Our minds add details so that we can “see” the story and understand it. I think what’s important is to be able to discern the Scriptural account from those details.

  2. This is Hannah again. I want to revise my comment by saying that even though we do not know Mary’s personality, My mom reminded me that she was raised in a time where girls of her age were taught to be respectful and submissive. She was also favored by God. It is only today’s society and Hollywood that would make her be sulky and rebellious.
    thank you!

  3. This was very insightful! It’s so true that even though we see Mary as some super holy figure, she really was just an ordinary girl that God used in an extraordinary way. As my mom says, “She was a vessel.” She was not perfect. And for all we know, she may have even been a bit rebellious and doubtful of God. We do know that in Luke ch.1, the angel had to tell her that “with God, nothing shall be impossible.” This may have been God’s way of turning Mary around and showing her his love and grace. And on the other hand she may very well have been a very sweet, submissive young lady. Whatever her personality was, I don’t think we have any business filling in the gaps of God’s story. He left us without details such as this for a reason. Maybe it’s so he’ll have something to tell us when we get to Heaven! 🙂

  4. Anonymous says:

    Great posts and some really insightful comments. Merci!
    Miss Kait

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the insight! — great reminder!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the REALLY great post — great reminder!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful, balanced insight! You something really awesome that a lot of us aren’t aware of is the fact about the sheperds. If you look back into Isreal’s acienct Jewish culture history you will find that those sheperds weren’t just some little sheperds that happened to be out there watching their sheep. It was much more than that. Those were the sheperds in charge of keeping and watching the lambs that were to be used for the Passover! Those sheperds, got to “keep watch” so to speak over the ultimate Passover Lamb! That just gives us more beauty and awe of telling of our Saviors birth and the events surrounding it! 🙂 My parents and I went to see The Nativity and we were moved! Although I do see that they took dramatic liberties, but like you said I can’t base my view of Mary on tradition and/or how I pictured her to be. Have to go to the scriptures. You know I never thought of how Joseph’s character is mentioned more than Mary’s. Interesting. I just love the part when Mary washes Joseph’s feet! Wasn’t that just beautiful!
    Blessings and Shalom!

  8. Anonymous says:

    A favorite southern gospel song of mine is “Common Garments.” It talks about how Jesus used his common cloak to heal the bleeding woman. Your post reminded me of that song. Thank you.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Maybe the reason they depicted Mary as being reluctant to marry Joseph is that in the culture of the day, women had no say in who they married (from what I understand of it, anyway). Perhaps the betrothal was sudden. And from the movie it seemed that they hardly knew each other, only as acquaintances. If I was in her situation, I think I would have felt reluctant about marrying a man I hardly knew, too.

    – Lauren

  10. Shelleymariee – during the movie, I was also a little surprised about how they portrayed Mary. As I thought about it, though, I appreciated they way the filmmakers pictured her. Nowhere in Scripture does it say Mary was perfect or even more righteous than other Jewish girls. What it does say is that she “Found favor with God”…that God, in His sovereign wisdom, was pleased to use her, and not necessarily because of any particular goodness that she possessed. The movie helped me to see Mary with a fresh perspective; she probably was not that much different from me. She was likely a very normal girl, struggling with life and love and growing up, but she was willing to be used by God in spite of her weakness.

    Just some thoughts… 🙂 I’m glad you liked it, too.

  11. ShelleyMariee says:

    Thanks for the write-up, April! You are right, it is a really beautiful movie because it’s realistic. The music and scenery are also breathtaking.

    I was a bit disapointed with some of the extra things they slipped in- I don’t recall the Bible ever mentioning that Mary didn’t want to marry Joseph, and Mary seemed somewhat sulky at the beginning of the movie. Other than a few things like that, I thought it was a very neat depiction and I would encourage everyone to see it:-)

  12. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the review. I saw “The Nativity Story” this last weekend and thought it was excellent. It sheds new light on the story of Jesus’s birth and makes it so much more real to me. It also reminds me of the song “Mary Did You Know?”.


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