We opened the season of Advent in my family by going to the movie theater to see The Nativity. I hope you get to see it before the Christmas season is over.
We all know what happens, but to see the events compiled into a movie gives one a sense for how fantastic the story really is. The virgin Mary becomes pregnant; Joseph, a righteous man, stays with her instead of having her stoned; three kings from Persia cross a desert in order to be there when Jesus is born in a cave; and an insane Herod responds by killing all the babies in Bethlehem to protect his throne.
Our culture has become so accustomed to associating Christmas with candy canes, snow, cards, lights and gift-giving that we forget the real events that took place some two thousand years ago. I am glad for the reminder this movie provides.
As a father, I was particularly struck by the character of Joseph. He is portrayed as a young man, seeking an honorable wife. His anguish is palpable when he lays eyes upon Mary when she returns from her visit to cousin Elizabeth. Mary is visibly pregnant. What scandal this brings! Joseph struggles as he searches for a dignified response. He cannot believe what has happened, nor can her parents. The matter is hardly settled when Mary tells everyone that an angel informed her she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and bear the Son of God. Of course, Joseph sticks with Mary, but this causes whispering among everyone they know.
The film also does a chilling job of depicting the brutality of Herod and his Roman soldiers. It must have been a horrifying time to live, especially if one was not a Roman citizen. Near the end of the film, Herod sends his soldiers to Bethlehem to kill ever male child under the age of two. Joseph senses the danger and immediately whisks Mary and baby Jesus away. The film closes with them reaching Egypt.
Joseph is doing what all husbands and fathers are called to do: protect their family. I have to ask myself, would I be decisive enough to take my wife and child out of harm’s way, even if it meant leaving everything we knew on short notice? If the culture should close in on me and my family, seeking to destroy my innocent children, as Herod’s soldiers did, would I act boldly enough? Would I seek to take them to a safe place?
I think we fathers face exactly that challenge today. Soldiers are not seeking my children, but marketers who wish to destroy them with materialism are. The popular culture is after my children and seeks to destroy them with deceptive messages about self-centered living, rebellion, and pleasure-seeking. I do have to protect my children. I do have to keep evil forces away from them.
The Nativity is a very good movie to see any time of year because the message is so timeless. It is a message of incredible faith, good triumphing over evil, and tremendous hope. Those are the things God gave to the world when He sent His only Son to become a man two millennia ago. Those are the things we have today because Jesus Christ is still with us.
tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.
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