Friday, September 15, 2006

Advent—Here We Come!

Wednesday I was on a conference call sponsored by Outreach, Inc. The Nativity Story, a move to be released world-wide on December 1, was the topic. Presenters for the call were:
  • Lynne Marian – Vice President of Outreach, Inc and Editor of Outreach Magazine
  • Mike Rich – Screen writer of The Nativity Story, executive producer of the movie
  • Jonathan Brock – Founder and president of Grace Hill Media (marketing the movie) and board member of Fuller Theological Seminary
  • Brock and Bodie Thoene – Authors of Why a Manger

This movie will be a great tool for our local churches IF we are willing to use it. Those behind the movie do not want Hollywood to use the church; they want the church to use this movie!

Sermon ideas (even sample sermons) and promotional items will be available on the Outreach web site by October 1 (an ambitious target date). Clips from the movie will be made available, free of charge, to go along with sermon topics. These clips WILL NOT include advertisements for the movie! There will be private screenings of the movie for pastors in various locations around the country and at the Outreach convention (check the Outreach web site as those dates and times become available).

How biblically accurate is the movie? Good question! The Bible texts of the birth narratives are very short. The screenwriter tried to be biblically accurate while adding dialog and scenes to cover the time from the conception of Christ until Mary, Joseph and Jesus flee to Egypt. The arrival of the Magi is going to be the controversial point in the movie. The movie has the Magi showing up at the manger. Lest we get too high and mighty in our indignation, take a look at the Nativity set that will be set up in your sanctuary. Does it have the Magi? My guess is that every year your church Nativity sets has the Magi at the manger!

The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem probably took ten days for Joseph and a pregnant Mary. One scene in the movie has them sitting by the fire (while on that journey) asking what in the world they are going to do as they raise GOD’S son. Imagine what you or I would do if God had asked us to raise his son. It would scare me to death!

I believe that God is giving us a great tool to use this Advent. Take advantage of this wonderful gift from Hollywood. Use this movie as an outreach tool

For Evergreen, we will turn the front of our sanctuary into a sheep-birthing stable. We will strive to be historically accurate and as close to the movie set as possible. We will seek to create a bridge for what people see and experience at the movie theater with our Advent worship. We have done this in the past year with great effectiveness. Last Advent, the front of the church was transformed into the Narnia scene of the lamp post, in the woods, in the winter (don’t panic—the communion table was still prominently placed and appropriately lighted with stage lighting). The messages fit nicely with Advent and were very powerful. We also had people come to the church specifically because we were covering the Narnia movie. For Easter we built at 16’ long and 4’ high “bridge of life” in the front of the sanctuary. The bridge led straight to the cross. Watching people walk across the bridge on Easter morning brought tears to most eyes. We expect that the Nativity experience this Advent will have similar results.

So check out The Nativity Story. It may be a great tool for Advent.


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