This morning I finished watching of The Nativity Story for the third time. I saw it first at the movies when it came out in 2006. Directed by Catherine Hardwick, and starring Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary, this cinematic retelling of the story of Jesus’s birth grows richer with rewatching.
The film is refreshingly simple and straightforward. While having the painterly visuals of a well-directed film, it contains honest performances. Its famous characters come across as real people. In the world it presents, the miraculous and world-shaping is side-by-side with the everyday.
In recent centuries there has been a dearth of genuine religious art. Religious images have become stereotyped and stiff. Perhaps preconceived notions have kept artists from finding inspiration.
But religion is in reality a living process. It involves the interaction between living creatures and a living Creator. Conceived in life, it should be an open window through which the winds of inspiration move. Thus in the past it has given us the cathedrals of the Middle Ages, the epics of Dante and Milton, the paintings of Michaelangelo and the cantatas of Bach.
But all is not lost. With some contemporary Biblical illustrations, The Nativity Story moves toward the creation of a new religious art.