The Ministry of Lisa Copen

Lisa Copen, Founder of Rest Ministries which serves the chronically ill, shares about mothering, illness, ministry and more.

“The Nativity Story” book is a comforting read

Nativitystory When I heard that the theater box offices would feature a nativity story this year, my enthusiasm grew as I saw many pastors embrace this story and encourage their congregations to visit the local theater for a reminder of what the Christmas season is all about. Somewhere between looking for the sold-out Elmo doll and debating between XL and XXL PJ’s for a friend who you don’t want to offend by purchasing the bigger size, you can take a break and sit back and watch the young, Oscar-award winning actress Keisha Castle-Hughes portray Mary, in The Nativity Story. (The film’s web site is worth checking out.)

Since my son is three and I’ve not had the chance to see a movie in the theater for months that does not involve animated cars or animated mice who are living in the sewer, I grabbed up the book last week at Walmart and read it last night in a 3-hour-sitting.

WhythenativityPerhaps the photos from the movie shoot, available in the middle of the book, gave me an idea of what Mary and Joseph may have looked like, or at least, the significant youth of Mary. Knowing that the book has been published by Tyndale Fiction, and widely supported by Dr. David Jeremiah (of Turning Point Radio and Television Ministries, a Christian broadcaster, author, and the pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego, California) gave me faith in its credibility. In fact, Dr. Jeremiah has a 128-page book out called Why the Nativity?  Bulk church cases available at special discount to help stores form partnerships with local churches–it features 25 questions and answers and 25 Scripture readings to coincide with the Advent season.

My opinion on the book and the hoopla surrounding it?

1–I found the book excellent. It seems to stick to the scriptures rather closely, adding in a lot of the mixed emotions the characters, especially Mary, experienced. There wasn’t a book back then called "What to expect when you’re expecting"–especially not one "…when you’re expecting the Son of God." Mary’s natural fears and questions are portrayed as anything that a typical young girl would have, but she is also one of deep faith, who continues to believe that God is in control of the situation and will somehow protect her from those who are evil, as well as those who are just judgmental and rude. Though it’s fiction, many parts of it use scripture, hardly putting it into today’s terms just to make it an easier read. It had the feeling and passion behind it as the Bible does when we dive into it and not quickly scan through the scriptures.

2–Last week controversy arose (doesn’t it always?) when it was announced that the Keisha, 16 years old, who plays the role of Mary, is pregnant with a child conceived after the filming with her 19-year-old boyfriend. As I read the headline on Yahoo I was disappointed that this excuse was provided for Christians to avoid seeing the film because of a young girl’s poor choice, as well as frustrated because of the pleasure the liberal media would have in throwing this juicy story out there.

Asked about the film’s potential scandal, Jeremiah observed, "You have to remember, these people are actors. I think most intelligent, sophisticated, American people can figure that out, and they’re not going to let that ruin or in any way cause them to have concern over the film."

Miss Castle-Hughes "wasn’t really Mary; she just played the part of Mary," the California pastor says, "and I don’t believe you can hold her responsible for a character that would be, certainly, fitting with the character of Mary in the scripture." Reverent viewers of The Nativity Story "need to separate the reality from the acting," he contends, "and not try to mar the film because the young lady who played the role of Mary, in her own personal life, doesn’t live up to the standard that Mary holds in the film itself."

Richard Ross, co-founder of the national abstinence movement True Love Waits, responded similarly in a conversation with Baptist Press, advising Christians not to react to Castle-Hughes and her pregnancy in the way the world would expect them to react, because "to do so is to ignore the model Christ set for his followers."

The Christ-like example, Ross noted, is marked by "gentleness and grace" and aims to point those who stumble toward redemption, forgiveness, and a God of second chances." Boatwright echoed this sentiment, telling Baptist Press that, while Christians obviously do not want to condone sex outside marriage, he hopes they will not be too judgmental of Castle-Hughes.

My own personal opinion is one I have held onto since the scandals involving Mel Gibson: regardless of what one believes (which we will never truly know — it’s between a person and God); when an actor takes a role in which they are an integral part of bringing God’s Word to a great amount of people who would not have otherwise seen it, or perhaps not have been touched so dramatically– such as Mel Gibson did through The Passion of the Christ— a great responsibility is laid upon their shoulders. And with this responsibility comes a great attack from Satan. It can come in many forms, but we should react with grace and for pray for the person rather than cast stones.

As a leader of a ministry, I fall short every day. I fail–myself, my family, and even God. I’m far from perfect and I humbly thank the Lord that He is able to use my ministry despite my own shortcomings. But even as I am failing, the Lord is working through Rest Ministries, changing lives and increasing His presence among His people. And with that comes attacks–often in my own personal health, spiritual walk, or any other area Satan sees an opportunity to discourage me. Thank goodness my downfalls are not broadcast on the World Wide Web for all to discuss.

The book is a gem. It was a fast read, I got into bed by 8:30 and snuggled up with it and was done in a few hours, feeling refreshed and as if I had spent some time with Mary and Joseph along those dusty trails. And as I looked at my Creche today, I saw it with fresh eyes, imagining poor little Mary having labor pains and clinging to a donkey, as Joseph ran from house to house, banging on doors, searching for a place to stay.

I haven’t seen the movie to comment; now I wish to see it more than before to see how the pages of the book come alive on the screen. In today’s world–where I still find delight that It’s Christmas Charlie Brown still airs annually on network t.v. despite Linus’s recitation of scripture about the Christmas story– I also find hope that such a film can be found at the theaters during the Christmas season, and even a bit of delight in knowing that it’s good enough that even Satan is searching for ways to decrease the power the Lord has through it.

Merry Christmas,

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