Don’t wait, this Christmas season, for old network reruns of “The Christmas Story” and Ralphie’s pursuit of the Red Ryder BB gun, or even Jimmy Stewart’s classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

MOVIEGUIDE is recommending that this year, you see “The Nativity Story,” one of those “very rare” movies that brings the Gospel alive “in a compelling, soul-stirring, entertaining, and inspiring manner.”

Vatican officials said they have chosen that production, which opens both in Italy and the United States on Dec. 1, to be screened at the Vatican’s Pope Paul VI Hall on Nov. 26, when several thousand people will be invited.

Claudia Di Giovanni, of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said it wasn’t known if Pope Benedict XVI would attend.

Proceeds from that event are to go for construction of a village school in an Israel town, Mughar, about 25 miles for Nazareth, the town of Jesus’ childhood, which now is home to both Christians and Muslims.

Rockets fired by Hezbollah guerrillas last summer damaged the town, officials said.

Now reviewer Ted Baehr says “The Nativity Story” is a movie every Christian would want to see. “It is certainly a movie that every non-Christian should see,” he said. “It testifies in every way to Jesus the Messiah and is clearly and consciously evangelistic.”

Without a sermon, it tells that this baby is the “greatest King” and “God made flesh,” Baehr said in his review of the production by New Line Cinema.

Oscar Isaac as Joseph and Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary

Oscar Isaac plays Joseph and Keisha Castle-Hughes is Mary in what Baehr calls the “nearly perfect movie” that opens with the prophecy in Jeremiah 23:5-6: “‘The days are coming,'” declares the LORD, ‘when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.'”

The rest of the movie references the biblical story throughout.

“Herod is intensely superstitious and played brilliantly. Thus, this movie starts, as it should, with a bang. It then flashes back to a year earlier in the town of Nazareth, showing a brief moment of tranquility in the life of Mary and Joseph,” Baehr said.

The Roman troops demand tribute to Caesar, and a short time later Joseph and Mary are betrothed. The Holy Spirit’s appearance to her, Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, Joseph’s reaction to the pregnancy, and the magi all follow.

“‘The Nativity Story’ has one of the best scripts ever for a biblical story. What makes a movie compelling is a sense of jeopardy, and that sense of jeopardy is present throughout this movie,” Baehr said. “The dialogue, the plot development, the turning points are refreshingly dramatic, so good in fact that they will elicit tears at certain points.”

“Catherine Hardwicke’s direction is superb. Joseph and Mary are very human, very Jewish and very in love,” Baehr said.

“Having spent some time in Israel researching other movies, I can attest to the authenticity of even the smallest details of life in Israel in the first century. The crucifixions, the agriculture, the ephods, everything is done exquisitely,” Baehr said.

Baehr said the movie doesn’t contain any language that would prevent young children from attending, there’s no sex and no nudity, and only a modest amount of violence, at the Temple sacrifice, people on crucifixes by the side of the road, sanitized depictions of Herod’s slaughter of the innocents and pushing and shoving.

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MOVIEGUIDE? is dedicated to redeeming the values of Hollywood by informing parents about today’s movies and entertainment and by showing media executives and artists that family-friendly and even Christian-friendly movies do best at the box office year in and year out.

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