Tonight I went with my family to see The Nativity Story, a new movie about the Birth of Christ. I found it faithful to the story and helpful as well in giving us a sense of the reality of the story. Nevertheless, seeing this true story come to life on a screen where countless other fictional works have played, and all the while munching on popcorn and drinking soda, was a bit incongruous. It almost had a leveling effect, putting the story on the same level as all the other stories that have played on these screens. I don't know if I like this. I much prefer a telling of the story (albeit later in Jesus's life) in prose, as in Anne Rice's Christ the Lord. I feel less entertained and less marketed to.
Nevertheless, there is good in the film telling of the story. We gain a sense of the perilous and difficult situation facing Mary, and even Joseph, as the child was born out of wedlock. We have an appreciation for what it meant to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a long and difficult journey and yet one tersely covered in scripture by the words "So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David" (Lk. 2:4). The film provides the possible back-story to this terse account, filling in the interstices of scripture. That's helpful.
The bottom line, though, is that I have to keep reminding myself that this is reality. This wild tale of supernatural beings appearing to humble human beings, of God Himself taking on human form through a miraculous birth to a virgin, happened. It really happened. It can't simply be dismissed as a beautiful legend. And that's why I can't quite abide seeing it on the screen.
I recommend the movie. Find out more about it here. But I recommend reading the account of Scripture even more.