I signed Nativity Story books after services at my church last weekend. A young woman who’d already read the novel came up and asked me to sign her well-worn copy. With tears in her eyes, she thanked me for the story . . . and said that though she’d been a Christian for years, she had come to see Jesus in a new light and Christmas would never be the same for her again.
I told her I felt exactly the same way.
I had a great interview with Cindy Swanson about this book. She wrote about The Nativity Story at her wonderful blog, which you can read here.
From Publishers Weekly
It’s a difficult task to retell the biblical nativity story in a fresh way—after all, it has been novelized, brought to stage and screen, and is the stuff of endless children’s Christmas pageants. Yet this companion novel to the New Line Cinema feature film (which will hit theaters December 1) should find a place on the bookshelf as a fresh and viable retelling. Hunt, the author of more than 70 books and working from Mike Rich’s screenplay, refrains from oversanitizing the story, although Mary and Joseph are fairly one-dimensional (there aren’t a lot of character flaws here). She depicts their gritty, hardscrabble existence as balanced by the love of family.
As a thoughtful reader would expect, the census trip to Bethlehem is no picnic, but some readers may be surprised that the shepherds and wise men show up at the stable together, unlike in the gospel account. The good-natured joshing among the three wise men provides a lighter note to the chapters where Herod’s cruelty is well portrayed. Hunt balances the necessary violence with a sensitivity that will expand her readership. Her rich prose and cultural details utilize the five senses to recreate the familiar story, which spans many points of view and includes a fine subplot about Elizabeth, Zechariah and John. (Nov.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
At this writing, I haven’t heard a lot of reader reaction–there are only a couple of reviews on Amazon.com, and they’re favorable. But I have been AMAZED at what I’ve been reading on some blogs about the movie–long debates about whether or not Mary should have experienced birth pangs, people arguing passionately about whether or not the wise men showed up with the shepherds, and whether or not it’s even proper to depict a scriptural event in film or fictionalized account.
Shaking of the head here. God often uses story to suit his purposes, and doesn’t logic dictate that one must imagine what one cannot ascertain? In my books, I take great care not to contradict what we know to be true (either through Scripture or trustworthy historical records). The rest I fill in as best I can by using common sense and artistic license, in that order.
Of course no one knows that there were exactly three magi; Scripture doesn’t count them. But it’s logical to assume there were three because they offered three gifts.
Because I anticipated a certain amount of controversy about some elements of the story, I included a Q&;A section at the end of the book to address these issues. My take on the story rises from my “sola Scriptura” background–I do not believe Mary was divine, or a permanent virgin, or sinless, for she said that God would be her savior (Luke 1:47) –why would she need a savior if she had never sinned? I do believe she suffered labor pains, for she was like all the rest of us, even though the child conceived within her womb was the sinless son of God.
That’s part of the miracle of the incarnation.
The novel, I should point out, is not a polemic for my point of view. It’s a scriptural retelling of the story, pure and simple.
One day in heaven, we can ask our questions and find out whether Jesus had half-siblings or step-siblings or whether or not Mary felt the pangs of labor. Until then, let’s endeavor to keep the spirit of unity in the bond of peace.
Tomorrow: Questions and Answers. Leave your question in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!