This Christmas season, a major motion picture will debut at your local theaters with a life-changing message – the story of the Nativity, told by some of the finest filmmakers in Hollywood. But this year, it’s not simply about creating a major motion picture that gets the Biblical narrative right; the real story is the opportunity to use the film to discuss issues of faith within the culture.
The Nativity Story chronicles the arduous journey of Mary and Joseph, a miraculous pregnancy, and the history-defining birth of Jesus. This dramatic and compelling story comes to life in a major motion picture starring Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider) as Mary, Oscar Isaac (Guerrilla) as Joseph, and Academy Award® nominee Shoreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog) as Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. The Nativity Story is directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown) from a screenplay by Mike Rich (The Rookie, Finding Forrester).
As the release date nears, Grace Hill Media, highly regarded publicity and public relations company is once again where the studios have turned to help them reach the faith based audience. Jonathan Bock, president of Grace Hill has led the company in spearheading the success of numerous major movies like “The Chronicles of Narnia.” To take The Nativity Story to the next level, Grace Hill is working to mobilize churches, and provide resources, study guides, and information for cell groups, study classes, and church workshops.
Bock admitted, “Having a successful faith based movie reach a large audience is certainly our ultimate goal. But we also realized the potential impact beyond the theater. We discovered that if we could provide churches and religious groups with the right resources to help millions of people understand the story, and deepen their own faith, the impact would be even greater.”
In conjunction with New Line Cinema, Grace Hill Media has created a website called nativityresources.com. The site will have numerous components such as downloadable film clips, discussion starters, group sales information and a Ministry Resources page for pastors to visit.
Grace Hill has been in communication with over 25 Catholic and Protestant leaders to create sermon outlines for the Ministry Resources page. Each of these sermon outlines will have corresponding clips from the film that can easily be downloaded into Power Point presentations to use during services over the Christmas holiday.
Unlike many Bible-based movies of the past, The Nativity Story has been meticulously researched, and supervised by theologians, and church leaders. That’s why such a classic movie story, combined with the Christmas season, makes this the perfect time to take advantage of the remarkable opportunity for discussing issues of faith with the culture.
Darrell L. Bock, (no relation to Jonathan) Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary had this comment after his review of the script: “The Nativity Story gives a richly authentic taste of first-century life combined with a most unusual story. The characters of Mary and Joseph come powerfully alive in the script. In general, birth then was not like birth today, and most especially in
this one case. The Nativity Story helps us to appreciate the uniqueness of this single birth.”
For decades, the response of many in the church has been to criticize, complain, and protest films coming from Hollywood, but now is the moment to engage the culture during a season when even non-believers think seriously about Christianity.
What can we do in the religious community? Here are some suggestions:
1. Use this as an opportunity to discuss the movie and begin a conversation about the meaning of the Nativity itself.
2. Encourage local churches and other faith based organizations in your area to buy block tickets to enjoy the film as a group.
3. Then, help set up special cell groups and discussion classes based on the film.
The movie is scheduled for a December 1 release, so now is the time to act. Let’s take advantage of a powerful movie with respected resources to begin an incredible conversation with the culture about the importance of religious faith in our community.
Phil Cooke, Ph.D., is a speaker, producer, and media consultant to ministries and churches worldwide, and writes an insightful online blog on issues of faith and media. Find out more at www.philcooke.com.
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