Sunday, December 10, 2006

When tradition overrules history

We went to see The Nativity Story Saturday evening after finding that a local production of a new "operetta" had sold out. The musical production of "Simeon," telling the story of the Christ child's dedication in Jerusalem, was actually the one thing that the movie missed 100% ! It is almost like the drama department at Bob Jones University KNEW this would be the case!

Let me start over. I had not seen reviews of the film ahead of time, and had not actually PLANNED on going to see it last evening. I suspected that the movie would follow tradition and put the birth in December (it did), but I did not expect it to change the timeline to the extent to make it match with the traditional manger scenes! But that is exactly what it did, to the expense of the historical record.

The producers had gone to great expense to research the first century era to get the dress and technology right, only to fall short when they touched on Biblical accuracy. They did an excellent job at portraying the personal inner feelings of Joseph, Mary, and even Herod. The caricatures of the "three wise men" were more of "comic relief" than anything else.

Apart from missing the clues to what I have already shown for a Autumn birthday, the accuracy of the movie fell apart when it came to the timing of the magi's visit. Even tradition has this to be in January, giving the holy family time to find more suitable shelter. The account in Luke, which most will admit is more strictly historical, mentions both the shepherds coming to the stable AND the dedication in nearby Jerusalem some eight days later.

The movie, though, in getting the magi to the stable, completely bypassed the dedicaton at the temple. The film has Herod's soldiers coming to Nazareth the very night of the birth, necessitating their fleeing just moments before the murderers arrive! Meanwhile, in the film, the "wisest" of the magi decides on his own that they would not go back to Herod. God is left out of the picture there, for it was "in a dream" that they, too, were warned by an angel.

The scenary, while not on location, was authenic. The costumes and customs were authenic. The people, even, were believable. But the STORY missed the mark.

But so do most of our Christmas carols (and even nativity hymns). This was a "touchy-feely" attempt to humanize the story. And that it did. But I think that more attention to the WHOLE story would have made a much more interesting experience.

I hope that I can get a video of "Simeon."

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