Friday, December 01, 2006

The Nativity Story

“The child Jesus grew up before Joseph and Mary and became strong, filled with wisdom and knowledge, and the favor of the Lord was upon them.” Luke 2:40

Poor St. Joseph…

In most nativity scenes, in Christian tradition, and even in the pages of Scripture, Joseph has been nearly forgotten for centuries. His role is often portrayed as a supporting character, an also-ran to the Christmas story. But in The Nativity Story, Joseph finally gets his due.

This heart-warming religious film gives us a look at the familiar Christmas story through the lens of the two characters at its center, namely Mary and Joseph. The movie suffers only when it tries to be everything to everybody (the scenes with Herod and the wise men are interesting, but detract from the captivating story of the relationship between Jesus’ parents), but we get enough good scenes with Mary and Joseph that make it worthwhile.

The line that sums up the struggle that faces Joseph is a line he says to Mary on the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, when he realizes this child will be divinely special: “I wonder if I can teach him anything.” Poor St. Joseph, worrying about his discarded status even before we get to the manger.

I think this is the struggle for any of us, whether we’re parents or not. We wonder if we can ever be teachers, mentors, or guides to anyone. I hear many young adult parents worry about how they can pass on anything when they themselves are still learning.

The film, however, gives us hope.

When we see Joseph accepting a wife who could be stoned for adultery, we wonder if Jesus learned from him how to love the sinners and marginalized. When we see Joseph angry at the money changers and Temple merchants in Jerusalem, we wonder if Jesus learned from him how this Temple is supposed to be a house of prayer. When we see Joseph and Mary helped by a good shepherd on their way to Bethlehem, we wonder if Jesus learned from them a model of selfless, compassionate leadership.

As the Scriptures say, “The child Jesus grew up before Joseph and Mary and became strong, filled with wisdom and knowledge, and the favor of the Lord was upon them.” (Luke 2:40) We can see from this, too, that it may very well be that Jesus learned how to do all the things we love about him from his own parents. It’s a perspective that even though it’s not directly stated in the Bible, seems to show the value of relationships with family, with our mentors, with our role models, and more specifically, with our parents.

This film gives us hope, and a challenge, that we are called to be like the Holy Family, and using the experiences and lessons from our lives to pass onto others, whether they be our children or simple people who know and respect us.

Sure, it’s human to worry that we’re not knowledgeable to pass on anything, but that’s what God wants from us. God calls us to use our flawed, human, but wonderful life experiences to help others, to teach others, and to guide others in their own lives.

It’s what the flawed, human, but wonderful Holy Family did, as we see in The Nativity Story, and it’s what we are challenged to do, too.


Ray_of_Hope said...

Very nice post! Thanks.

Fr. Pat Mulcahy said...

Excellent reflection, Paul. From the trailers I've seen, I've been eager to catch this movie, and I know I will this Advent. Your reflection on it makes me even more eager to see it. I think this is a wonderful way to put Christ in Christmas once again.

Thanks, and Advent blessings to you. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!

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Ray_of_Hope said...

This movie reminds me of two Christmas songs that I am especially fond of- Go Tell it on the Mountain and Mary had a Baby.
Do you like either of these songs yourself?

Jarzembowski said...

Just a question for anyone reading: Which nativity film do you find most inspiring, or do you most connect with?

For me, it's actually the first hour of "Jesus of Nazareth," directed by Franco Zeffirelli in 1977 (with Robert Powell as the adult Jesus). The portrayal of the scenes seem the most realistic, most human (rivaling what we see in "Nativity Story").

The "Nativity Story" is good, but veers too often into Christmas Card gloss (the beam of light comes in at just the right angle into the cave where Mary gives birth to Jesus? a bit too postcard-like in my opinion...). "Jesus of Nazareth" also gives more realistic, more accessible images of the annunciation and of the dreams of Mary and Joseph than "Nativity Story."

But what's your favorite nativity scene in a film or a favorite movie about the birth or early life of Christ?

Ray_of_Hope said...

Thanks for so many encouraging posts on your blog. It is so enjoyable to read, and I can always relate to something in the movies you see. I look forward to reading your future movie posts!

Merry Christmas!

Jarzembowski said...

Merry Christmas everyone!