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Watch 2022 online sermons » Dr. David Jeremiah » David Jeremiah - Why the Nativity? (Interview)

David Jeremiah - Why the Nativity? (Interview)


David Jeremiah - Why the Nativity? (Interview)
TOPICS: Christmas

Sheila Walsh: Every year, millions of people around the globe celebrate Christmas, but what does it mean? Hello, I'm Sheila Walsh, and in just a moment I'm going to have the privilege of talking to someone who has devoted his life to the real meaning of Christmas and most recently with his film production about the birth of Jesus, "Why the Nativity?" Drawing from both the Old and New Testaments, noted pastor and theologian Dr. David Jeremiah provides answers to our questions about the nativity and gives us compelling reasons to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Hello, Dr. Jeremiah. It is so wonderful to be here.

Dr. David Jeremiah: Sheila, thank you for coming to do this.

Sheila Walsh: This is amazing. We're on the Bethlehem-Nazareth backlot of your brand new movie, docudrama, "Why the Nativity?" And I have to say, I very rarely run out of words. This is spectacular.

Dr. David Jeremiah: You know, Sheila, I've been in the real Bethlehem in Israel, but sitting here is almost more overwhelming than when I was there because of all that's gone in to make this as authentic as we could.

Sheila Walsh: The attention to detail is absolutely breathtaking.

Dr. David Jeremiah: Yeah, I tell you what, I couldn't be more excited and more proud of our guys and gals who worked on this. This has been an obsession with them for almost three years now and been through a lot of ups and downs and starts and stops, but here we are.

Sheila Walsh: Yep, we'll talk about some of that. But before we get to the actual movie, this began as a book. Tell us about that.

Dr. David Jeremiah: You know, every book is like an adventure. I know you're an author, so you know what I mean. People always ask you, "Why did you write that book"? And if you stop for a moment and think about it, there's always a reason. And this book started like this. I was in my office one day and a friend of mine, who is the president of Tyndale House, Ron Beers, called and said that they wanted to do this book project where we would answer 25 questions about the nativity, and we brought our team together and worked on it, and "Why the Nativity?" was the result.

Sheila Walsh: A project like this, I've never seen anything quite like this, was a daunting task for you and for your amazing staff to even begin a project like this.

Dr. David Jeremiah: I think a lot of times, if we knew at the beginning what it was going to take for us to get to the end, we might have said, "You know, let's don't do this". But we had a great sense of what this could mean. And we have a guy on our staff named Paul Joiner, who has a background in this and knows a lot about it, and we had no doubt that if we got everything together, Paul could pull it off.

Sheila Walsh: Now, thinking about the timeline, you start a project like this and then COVID hits. How did that impact things?

Dr. David Jeremiah: Sheila, that was so discouraging because we had just gotten a sense of momentum. All of these sets are built, not here, the facades are built in different places. And that we'd got started, and then we started getting messages back: we don't have any workers. Nobody can come to work. And so we had to shut it all down, and we didn't know what to do. We just sort of said, "Well, let's try to get through COVID and see what happens".

Sheila Walsh: Were you ever tempted to just give up because it was too overwhelming?

Dr. David Jeremiah: Well, if you were among the inner circle of this group, you would know there was a meeting one day in the conference room. We were about halfway into our budget and we had half way to go. It's kind of like you're in the middle of the lake and it's as far to the other side as it is to go back where you started. And we had this discussion, and I remember there were some tears in that meeting. I'll never forget it. For a moment we thought, "Maybe this isn't going to happen". And then I remember saying, "Look, we've never started anything in the past that we didn't finish, and we're going to finish this. I don't know how we're going to finish it, but we're going to finish it. So let's quit talking about not finishing it. Let's finish this". And we all took a deep breath and began part two.

Sheila Walsh: That's why you're such a visionary leader. You need someone to stand up and say, "No, we're burning the ships behind us and we're going forward". I think that's marvelous. I wondered how working on a project like this has maybe impacted all that. I mean, there's been so many people working on this. How has it impacted those?

Dr. David Jeremiah: You know, Sheila, there's so many stories about people whose lives have been impacted. One of the things that I think is really cool is that we have used some people in the set who aren't from our faith, people who are just really good actors and actresses. And we used a lot of technical people that they aren't from our church and they don't know who we are, but they've come on this set and they've seen the love of Jesus in the lives of our people, and it's had an amazing impact on them. And we hear this almost every day, that God is in this because he's in the people that are doing it.

Sheila Walsh: One of the things that I see happening, and perhaps you have too, like, I remember one year my husband and I put a nativity scene in our yard and one of our neighbors complained, and it seems to be happening more and more often. Have you seen that, and is that why this is so important?

Dr. David Jeremiah: There's a joke that goes around that if you have a baby Jesus, you need to put a GPS in him 'cause they'd come and steal him, and that's true. We actually had a nativity scene on our campus at Shadow Mountain and somebody stole Baby Jesus out of the manger, and then they put up a lot of fuss over it, you know. I think we might have kind of gotten through that phase; we had that. They're on to assaulting other things now, but they've kind of left that alone. And many of us have just said, "Okay, we're going to double down and do it more and make it more visible".

Sheila Walsh: So I just want to let people know a few of the statistics to make sure I got it all right, 'cause this is fascinating to me. So "Why the Nativity?" is an original screenplay with an original score created from creative people on your staff and from the television and film industry, employing more than 1,000 people during this production, with more than 100 roles, 19 of them children and animals. And they know what you say about working with children and animals, but we decided we would just do that anyway. And it will be aired on networks and streaming platforms everywhere this Christmas and for Christmases to come. So much effort and creativity has gone into this, and I guess my bottom line question is, why?

Dr. David Jeremiah: There's always been something about Turning Point. It's in the DNA here that we want to do things nobody's ever done before. Nobody's ever done anything quite like this as a ministry. I mean, we're certainly not going to say that we've done something that is better than anything else, but we've done something unique for a ministry and we've done it with our own people primarily leading the way under Paul's leadership and my son David, who has been very much involved in the administration of all of this. We started, and I don't think we realized how big this would end up being. You take a step and then you take the next step and everything continues to multiply till all of a sudden you look up and you walk into this place where we are tonight and it's hard to comprehend, it's hard to believe.

Sheila Walsh: Yeah, as I said, this will be aired on various networks and streaming platforms, but something very exciting is going to happen in Washington, DC. Tell us about that.

Dr. David Jeremiah: Well, you know, there's a wonderful ministry there called the Museum of the Bible, and they have grabbed hold of this and they're going to show it during the Christmas season. You know, Sheila, there's something to be said about doing projects, that when they're done, they're so amazing that only God can get the credit.

Sheila Walsh: I love that.

Dr. David Jeremiah: And that's what I think is happening here. I mean, we all worked hard, we know we had a part in this, but this is not something that humanity can pull off. If God were not in this, we couldn't be doing what we're doing.

Sheila Walsh: Wow. In describing the motivation behind this incredible docudrama "Why the Nativity," you talk about the nativity as being the pivotal moment in human history.

Dr. David Jeremiah: Well, Sheila, when Jesus entered this world, everything changed, even the calendars; and the people forget that. You know, do you believe in Jesus? Well, you have to believe that something happened, because everything changed. We who are Christians know that he came to change us, but he also changed the world and he brought hope where there wasn't any hope. He brought peace into hostility. Yes, the coming of Jesus Christ into this world was the watershed of history.

Sheila Walsh: You are known, loved, and respected because of your teaching on biblical prophecy. But when we look at the nativity, it didn't start there, did it? It started thousands of years ago. Why were the prophets so important?

Dr. David Jeremiah: Well, 700 years before, people like Micah and Isaiah, Jeremiah, started to talk about the coming of the Messiah. "The Messiah is going to come". Isaiah said that a virgin will be with child. That child is going to be called Emmanuel, and the hope of the Messiah was in the heart of the Jewish people. They misunderstood who he was and many perhaps even still struggle with that, but he was the Messiah who would come also to be the Redeemer. The prophets talked about it. In fact, I just was reminded yesterday in something I was reading that there are 316 prophecies that were literally fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus Christ, and you can trace them in the Bible and in history.

Sheila Walsh: Stay tuned; we'll be right back with more about "Why the Nativity," the docudrama film from Dr. David Jeremiah.

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Sheila Walsh: Thank you for joining us. I'm Sheila Walsh, here again to talk with Dr. David Jeremiah about his docudrama film, "Why the Nativity?" One of the things that I have often wondered was why did God pick that particular time in human history for Jesus to be born?

Dr. David Jeremiah: Well, you know, if you study history, you realize that it was Jesus or oblivion. History was at a very, very challenging point. The Romans were in charge. They were running the world. They aren't called the iron legions of Rome for nothing. There was also some other things that were going on. For instance, Rome had kind of united the world so it would make it possible for the message to be shared, and Greek had become almost like English is in the world. And so at that particular time, at a time of great need and darkness, at a time when the message could be received and could go quickly to other parts of the world, the Bible says in the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son. What a great message.

Sheila Walsh: Wow, so, I'd love to talk about the central characters of the nativity. Let's talk about Mary. Why did God choose this particular young woman to be the mother of the Son of God?

Dr. David Jeremiah: I'm not sure that we will ever know all of the reasons for that, but what we know about her is she was a godly young woman. She was certainly among the many women in Israel who thought they might one day be the mother of the Messiah. That was a hope that was kind of in the hearts of many young women. When Gabriel came and told her that she was the one, it must have been quite a shock to her. I don't think she was expecting it. I don't think she felt she was qualified. Her songs that she created and the way she responded to it tells you she was a very humble person, and I always think about that one phrase that she had when she heard it. She said, "Be it unto me according to your Word". That was her heart. She was ready to receive whatever God wanted to do for her.

Sheila Walsh: One of my favorite depictions in the movie is the way that Joseph is depicted. You show so beautifully that they were very much in love, young teenagers very much in love. But they were about to get married. They were betrothed, which was a very serious thing, and then suddenly Mary is with child. Why did God choose Joseph? He had to be quite a special man.

Dr. David Jeremiah: You know, I have a sermon that I've preached a couple of times during the Christmas season called "The Forgotten Man of Christmas," because Joseph is sort of like a walk-on player and then after the Christmas story, he's never heard from again. He just walks off the stage and he disappears into the world. But Joseph was a man who was willing to do what God wanted him to do, and he didn't have to be in the center of the story. He was a supportive man, worked in a carpenter shop, and obviously loved Mary much. I mean, he passed the test of love when he found out that she was pregnant and he knew it wasn't because of him and yet here she is, with child, and she says that it happened in a certain way, a way that had never been responsible for a child to ever be born before in history. She was with child of the Holy Spirit, and the angel came and told him that and God granted him the faith to believe it, and he lived it and he protected her. And he wasn't the center of the story, but he was really the most important next character in the story.

Sheila Walsh: Talking about that, why was a virgin birth so important, that Mary had never been with a man?

Dr. David Jeremiah: Well, the Messiah had to be perfect. He had to be the perfect Son of God, and he also had to be human. And if he had gotten his humanity the way we get ours, he would also have sin in his life. So he had to come into humanity without the agency of a sinful human being. And so he was born of Mary, but he was born of the Holy Spirit so that he could be the sinless Son of God.

Sheila Walsh: So why Bethlehem? Not the most auspicious. I mean, it wasn't Jerusalem. Why was it important that he was born in Bethlehem?

Dr. David Jeremiah: Well, the Bible said that he would be, Bethlehem Ephrathah would be his home. But, you know, Bethlehem was a pretty special place. Rachel was buried there, and so were, Ruth and Naomi were buried there, and Bethlehem has a really cool name. The word Bethlehem means "house of bread," and Jesus Christ came to be the bread of life. He was born there, obviously, because he happened to be there when taxation was going on, registration was going on. And I remember reading somewhere that if Mary had been pregnant with Jesus one month before that, he would have been born here. If she had been pregnant one month after that, he would have been born here. But she was pregnant with Jesus at such a time that when the census took place, he would be in Bethlehem, thus fulfilling the prophecy of the Old Testament prophets.

Sheila Walsh: And the place where he was born, I love the way it's depicted. It's like in a cold, kind of dusty cave, not a palace.

Dr. David Jeremiah: You know what, I think one of the things that will surprise a lot of people, and it kind of surprised me because I've told this story so many times and read it right out of Scripture and, you know, they went to the inn, and there's no room in the inn. And so they're born in what we thought was a shed. But history tells us it probably wasn't a shed at all, it was a cave that was on the property there. And so we built a cave on our set. We have a cave for Jesus to be born in. As you think about that and some of the other aspects of the birth of Jesus, Sheila, God went out of his way to put the gospel on the lower shelf so that everyone could feel welcome. I mean, he wasn't born, as you said, in a palace. Had he been born in a palace, then some people might have thought that he was only for the aristocracy. But he was born in a stable so that the least among all of us could be accepted. And we'll talk about that, I'm sure, in a few moments, about the shepherds, but that's why he did that. He came so that no matter who we are, or what we've done, or where we've been, or how we may even think of ourselves, he is for us and he is available and he's reachable.

Sheila Walsh: I think the depiction of the shepherds might even be one of my very favorite moments because they were looked down on, they were despised, they were nobodies.

Dr. David Jeremiah: You know what, I've done a lot of homework on the shepherds. A shepherd was so despised, they were not allowed to be a witness in court. They were not allowed in the temple. They couldn't worship. So Jesus chose the least of all people to whom he would first reveal himself as the Messiah. The shepherds remind us of how much God loves us, how much he loves all of us. And I would just stop and say at this moment, maybe somebody's watching this interview and you think, you know, "I'd like to be a Christian, but I'm probably not good enough". You don't have to be good enough to be a Christian. You just have to be willing to let God's goodness invade your life as he did.

Sheila Walsh: Yeah, when those who were the least likely to be invited to the party became the only ones invited to the party, that's just the heart of God. So let's talk about the kings. There was the Silk Road from China. There was the spice road from Africa. So many people coming to Jerusalem. I mean, just coming from all over the world. Why a star? Why was that important?

Dr. David Jeremiah: The star led them in a way that violated the way stars move. The star wasn't going in the right direction as far as the universe is concerned, and it was obviously a miraculous star. I mean, I've heard all of the stories about how it was this and that and how this came together, but it wasn't an accident. It was God's star. It was God's miraculous star to bring the wise men to where they could worship the Lord, and the wise men tell us that he's also here for the aristocratic and for those who are in the higher level. Sometimes they're harder to reach than the shepherds.

Sheila Walsh: That's true.

Dr. David Jeremiah: And they came to worship, and they picture the importance of worshiping Jesus. So many times in the Christmas scene, the shepherds and the wise men appear together, but they were never together. The wise men came maybe two years later, and they came from a long way. Their journey was an arduous journey. They came to worship the Lord with the determination that most of us don't have, and they came bearing gifts to the Lord Jesus to express their love, and obviously because they believed in the prophecy and that it was being fulfilled.

Sheila Walsh: Why those specific gifts: the gold, frankincense, and myrrh?

Dr. David Jeremiah: Well, those gifts are really significant. Gold obviously is the gift of the king. I think when they opened that treasure, nobody had to ask what that's all about. This is a kingly gift. Frankincense was an aroma that was very familiar to people who went to the temple. So when you've smelled frankincense, you felt like you were in the temple. I know that, I was thinking about that today when I was reading over this, that sometimes certain smells remind you of a place. Like, for instance, I'll just tell you this. We stayed one time in a hotel that had an incredible aroma. When you walk in the door, it was just like, and I asked my wife, "What is that"? And believe it or not, we went to the gift shop and they sold it. They sold the aroma, and I bought some of it and I brought it home. And it was a candle. And every time we would light that candle, I would think of that hotel. And I think that's what frankincense meant. Frankincense was a very powerful aroma. And then of course, myrrh was the surprising one because myrrh is an embalming fluid, and it was a picture of the coming death of Jesus. I'm not really sure how much they understood about that. Probably not as much as we think or maybe as much as we write into the script for them, but it was nonetheless a powerful reminder that Jesus one day would be wrapped as a mummy and myrrh would be between the cloth that he was wrapped in.

Sheila Walsh: The one person who was not happy about the arrival of the baby was King Herod. Why was he so afraid?

Dr. David Jeremiah: He was ticked off, and many people don't know that Herod was at the end of his life when this happened. He was a very sick man. He was very paranoid. He was trying to rule the Jews, and he wasn't doing all that great. His job was to keep the Jews in line for Rome. He struggled a lot. And then one day these guys come to town and they say, "We are come to find the king of the Jews. Can you tell us where he is"? And he's the king of the Jews and here's people telling him, "There's another king of the Jews". And he doesn't like that at all. So he tried to seduce them into ultimately revealing to him who the king of the Jews was that they were looking for, and you know the rest of the story.

Sheila Walsh: Yeah, okay, some rapid fire questions. I'm just going to give you a name, and tell us a bite-sized thought on each. What do we learn from Mary?

Dr. David Jeremiah: I learn the humility of this woman. "Lord, I don't understand all this; nobody can ever explain it to me. I'm 15 years old, but be it unto me according to your Word".

Sheila Walsh: What about Joseph?

Dr. David Jeremiah: Joseph is the steady, faithful man who believed God against all odds. He had to believe a story that nobody else would ever have believed apart from the input of the angel.

Sheila Walsh: What do we take from the shepherds' story?

Dr. David Jeremiah: The shepherds remind us that God's love reaches to the least of all, and that they can come to Christ.

Sheila Walsh: And what about the wise men?

Dr. David Jeremiah: And the wise men tell us the other story, that God loves us. He loves the most among us and the least among us, and he loves us all the same.

Sheila Walsh: I want to ask you about, at the end of your book "Why the Nativity," which I read again, and it's fabulous. But you end by asking three questions, which I love. So let's talk about the last three questions in the book. Why did Jesus come?

Dr. David Jeremiah: Well, you know, he tells us in the Bible why he came. He said, "I have come to seek and to save that which is lost". That's why he came for unbelievers and for those of us who are Christians. He said, "I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly". Those two reasons cover the scope of his coming. He came to be the Savior. I always tell people that he's the only person who was ever particularly born for the purpose of dying. He came for one reason: to die. And from the very beginning, he set his face toward the cross, and his life for us who are believers is the life of Christ is the abundant life.

Sheila Walsh: And why must he come again?

Dr. David Jeremiah: Well, first of all, he said he would.

Sheila Walsh: Yes, amen.

Dr. David Jeremiah: And interestingly enough, I said there were 316 prophecies of his first coming. There are more than three times that many prophecies of his second coming. He's coming again to ultimately fulfill his purpose and bring peace to this earth, to gather his people to himself to those who have put their trust in him, to serve his kingdom, and then forever to be with him.

Sheila Walsh: Let me just ask for anyone who's watching this. Why is it so important that they believe in Jesus?

Dr. David Jeremiah: Well, Jesus proves by his life and his ministry, by the way, not just from biblical proof but from secular proof. I've been doing a project where much of the information is from a historian by the name of Josephus, who was highly regarded. And he came to fulfill the prophecies concerning him in the Old Testament, and he said himself, "I have come to do your will, O God". So he came to fulfill the will of his Father, and his purpose was to pay the penalty for our sin so that we could believe in him, and he said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. And if you want to come to the Father, you have to come through me, because I am the bridge between heaven and earth". He was 100% God and 100% man, the only one who could do what needed to be done in bringing us together for forgiveness and redemption. So if you don't believe in him, there's no plan B. There's only one plan.

Sheila Walsh: There's one scene in the movie that I think more than anything I've ever seen before perfectly depicts John 3:16, and that's when the three kings leave after having been with the very young Jesus and they're in the streets and they're with the people. It so clearly shows God so loves the whole world. It's a powerful scene. A lot of people think, "Well, that's good for you, but what does God feel about me"?

Dr. David Jeremiah: The Bible tells us the story, and the result of putting one's faith in Christ is quite evident to anyone who wants to really examine it. It's not an isolated story. For all these many years since he came, hundreds of thousands of people have put their trust in Christ. He is the truth. If you put your trust in him, he will do for you what he's done for all those who put the trust in him. And let me just cover one little thought about this, because I've been thinking about this a lot lately. So many people say, "Well, that's not my truth, that's your truth; I don't believe in that". But the truth of Jesus is true for everyone everywhere always. It's not implicated by how we respond to it. Some people give you the impression that since they don't believe in it, it isn't true. You cannot make the truth of Jesus untrue by simply saying, "I don't accept it". He is the truth. If you want to know the truth, the Bible says in John you can know the truth. The Bible says God will reveal himself to anyone who truly wants to know the truth. So if you're talking about this in your own heart or with your friends, ask yourself this question: Do I want to just perpetuate my disbelief, or do I really want to know the truth? Because if you want to know the truth and you follow the Spirit's direction in your life, you will come to the truth.

PART 2


Dr. David Jeremiah: One day I was sitting in my office, and one of our publishers called me. It was a friend of mine. He said, "Hey, we're thinking about doing this book on Christmas, and what we want to do is take the key elements of Christmas and put them into short little chapters. We need 25 chapters, and we need them in 3 weeks". And I thought, "You got to be kidding me". But, you know, if you really get started and you believe in something, the good news was I'd preached on almost all of those. So it wasn't like going to research new material, it was taking things I'd already studied and finding ways to abridge them and put them in a chapter so that they would fit into this category, so we did 25 "Why the Nativity?" chapters and we made the deadline. It was amazing. For me as a pastor, I think Christmas is special because the message of the birth of Christ is the seed of the gospel. It's the good news. You know, Easter is fraught with the death of Christ, which is by itself is sad, and the resurrection makes it glorious; but Christmas is totally positive in terms of the birth of a child, the coming of the Redeemer, people gathering from every walk of life to observe, the angels, the shepherds. There isn't a better story that you can ever tell.

Paul Joiner: To film a historical piece you have to go someplace that looks like the time, so, going back to the 1st century, and with the sets and the costumes and all that takes to film a 1st century piece, the scope got quite big quite fast. But we knew that if we were going to do something that was memorable, we had to, like, answer that call of doing something big. So with a little bit of thought and prayer, we just went after it.

Denitsa Bliznakova: We really had to look into various historical periods, cultures, people. Of course, we have the lead characters of Mary and Joseph and Jesus and Gabriel. And so this is such a well-known story, you know, that is known all across the world to all around the world, that immediately I felt a little bit of a pressure to step up to do my research, to also see how the story has been presented to people in the past, in the present, right, and then draw from that.

Paul Joiner: And we hired a team design build, who helped create and design this whole set, and we painstakingly laid it out so it would all work with all the different shots.

Chris Patterson: It was a set that was built for Turning Point, and it's one of a kind. The only one like it, and it's beautiful. And what I've liked about shooting here is that it's contained. You can shoot almost 360 degrees. Joe Cashman, his team just crushed it putting this place together. Travis, art department, props; they did a great job dressing it.

Paul Joiner: So in "Why the Nativity?" you see Bethlehem four different times. You see it at the decree, you see it at the birth of Christ months later, and then you see it when the kings show up, and then you see it many, many, many years later, 30 years later. So we have to show the same city four different times. So that means it has to look a little different each time. Now, the construction of the buildings don't change, but props continually have to be recycled and removed and retired once they've been keyed. Takes a good plan to make the same city look a little different each time. It could be as simple as placing fires in different places or hanging the items from stores and markets in a different place. Some people may not notice it at all, but a lot of people would notice it. There is maybe a subconscious shift in your mind, like, it looks a little bit different. I think it's super important. We've been working on this film for about 2 1/2 years. So we have employed, I think, over 1,500 people for the show in different areas of Southern California. We have had over 103 named characters set. We have had background anywhere from 3 to 75, 80 any given day. It has been a lot of different people on this backlot and in our locations putting this whole piece together so it looks believable and it looks authentic.

Chris Patterson: Production has been super cool on this job. We've been able to get cranes, sliders, Steadicam full time. We have dolly full time. It's pretty amazing. Multiple cameras. Two cameras for the whole run of the show. We had a third camera for about three weeks of the show. So it's been put together really great. We're just kind of rocking. You can do a lot when you have all the tools and the personnel that know how to use the tools, and that's what Turning Point Studios has basically provided to make this film. Here's the thing; with locations, you know, there's different variables. You get to a location, it might be beautiful, but here are the factors. How hard is it to get equipment in there? And that kind of tells you right there, what are you actually going to use for this. You may not be able to get a dolly in there, so maybe a Steadicam or maybe it's just sticks in the slider. And then you got to also factor in time of day, you know, because if you can't really light it up, hopefully that sun's going to be backlight for you. And then after that, you know, we got very western. We ended up in Thousand Oaks up in the hills, and that was beautiful up there. A couple of difficult spots. Again, just, how do you get equipment into location, that was always an issue there. Not a major one but, you know, it kind of simplified things, but at the same time we got some really beautiful stuff just because of that.

Paul Joiner: There are many Christmas shows out there. So one of the questions we first had to ask ourself, "If we do a Christmas show, a Christmas film, why do another one? It's a familiar story. Everyone knows the plotline. Everyone knows what's going to happen in the end. So why do one"? And that was a huge question we had to answer. We felt that we could put a little more creativity in the story, we could put a little bit more imagination into a story that's pretty down pat. I mean, not only do you see the story on television every year, but you see it at your church or in a Christmas play downtown and it's the same cast of like nine characters. We felt like we could add a lot more to the story, drop in a little bit of imagination, make it a little more provocative in the storyline so people would take a new look at Christmas. That was the goal, was to say, "Let's take a look at Christmas again, and not just present the same story but a story that makes you stop and think a little broader about what it was to have Jesus born in Bethlehem".

I think a lot of storytelling is adding specific nuances to a story that make you stop and think, "I never thought about that. That's possibly the way it went. What would I do in that situation"? So our nuanced characters were created to drop in those moments so you wouldn't just say, "Oh yeah, Mary and Joseph, oh yeah, the baby, the shepherds," but to stop and experience Christmas yourself for the first time through the eyes and lives of these nuanced characters. But we also added a lot of nuance moments that are foreshadowing of what Jesus would have in his life. I can think of a few, like when Mary first comes to Bethlehem, she's sitting at the well waiting for her husband to find a place for them to stay. And as she's sitting there observing the whole town, she notices a blacksmith. He's really tough and mean and angry.

In our story, he represents the people who are not welcoming, and he's sitting there in his blacksmith shop working and what he's doing, he's making nails. And they're not small nails, they're large nails. And as he's making them, he's tossing them and throwing them to the ground. And he looks up at Mary, and she looks back at him. He throws his last nail, which is the third nail. And so in that moment, it's a nuanced moment that we don't know there's a blacksmith that had an encounter with Mary in the square, but we put that in because when she sees those three nails on the ground, it's a little foreshadowing of things that are going to come in the life of her Son. They're sprinkled throughout the show. There are a lot of nuance moments of symbols and a white horse, flowers, swaddling clothes that are all premonitions of what will happen in the future life of Jesus. Sometimes when you tell a story, the flashing forward or flashing back really helps set the details, and it also makes the story go from just one facet to many faceted aspects of the story.

So in "Why the Nativity?" I decided to drop in foreshadowing of Jesus's life from the baby to seeing himself years later, but the dream sequences in the foreshadowing of things to come in a dream or a vision happen a lot to tie the larger gospel story in of Jesus as a baby. But wouldn't it be nice to understand why Jesus was born? So in that manger scene we see Jesus have a flash forward of what his life will be, and we see the work of Jesus in healing the sick, and welcoming the children, and forgiving a woman, and even dying on the cross. We don't want to miss that part of why the baby came. So those were put in to say, just a reminder, it's not just about this moment, it's about the start of his whole life. This is the moment that starts what he's about to do. This is the beginning of his mission, not the end of his mission.

There was a little bit of concern that we would overshadow the true story, and we have tried not to do that. The nuanced characters that was a stretch for me before we researched them was all the different kings, their family. We found out kings would never travel by themselves, especially if it's a two-year, three-year journey. So in this research we found out that people did take their families and people did take guards with them. They were in for a long trip. So in our show, though you've probably never seen kings show up with their whole families, you'll see that in ours. So it's a stretch of what you've seen before, but historically it's actually probably what truly happened when people would travel. They would take their life and travel with it.

Denitsa Bliznakova: As a costume designer, we're always concerned with historical accuracy. Now, because of the time period, there are very few visual references that we could actually go off, but we looked into the Roman Empire as well as the Persian Empire, some of the ancient dynasties of China. And because the director of the project wanted the three kings to be represented in a little bit different way, he was interested in looking into one of the kings to be from China and we specifically looked into the Han Dynasty. So there were quite a bit of information. Actually, I was surprised myself on how many visual references we had from the period. Also what was special is that we were not only seeing the three kings, but we also saw their families and we see them in three various scenes. We see them in their own homes, when they travel, and also at the end at Bethlehem when they meet the child Jesus.

Don Harper: So there's a point in the story where three kings from different geographical locations, from Asia, the Middle East, Africa, you know, we're using instrumentation for each of these groups and their entourage, but when they actually journey to Bethlehem, I've written a theme that is sort of a combination of all three of these locations. I've used all the instruments, melded them all together into sort of a melting pot. So it's not particularly one thing or the other. I was attracted to this project "Why the Nativity?" mostly because of the story. It's an epic story. It musically covers every style I can think of, from grandiose to magical to tender. It's a love story between Mary and Joseph, between God and his people. There's so much substance to it, and musically it's a treat to work on because of that. I really enjoy being involved on a spiritual level as well as a musical level with the project. So my daily work is a little bit like church. It's a little sort of my way of connecting emotionally with my creator, and those themes need to be emotional. They need to have impact. They need to be strong enough to be developed throughout the show to give the characters a sense of who they are, to give a sense of place to where we are, to give importance that it deserves because the story deserves importance.

Paul Joiner: So in creating "Why the Nativity," we really wanted to have some themes that the world today could relate to. So love, young love, mission, calling, grace. So we have some themes throughout this show. We think of Mary and Joseph as kids. In Dr. Jeremiah's writings, he brings out that Mary and Joseph were raised in the same little town of Nazareth, so they would know each other as kids. So we see them as kids running through town.

Chris Patterson: We got this crane. It's called a Chapman Zeus. It's built in the 1950s, and it's a classic. We got to talk, and we knew we wanted something out here in the backlot that can be fast to get high angle shots; that came up. Turns out they have a Steadicam platform for it. We found that out and then instantly it's like, "Hey, we should try some Steadicam walk-offs". So day one we got the crane, and guess what? Steadicam walk-off. We sent our operator up. He did a nice walk-off right into Nazareth following young Mary and Joseph down the street. It was pretty epic.

Paul Joiner: We want the youth to understand that that could have been them. We want teenagers today and young people today to say, "That could be me. You know, that's how I feel about the person I love, the person I'm going to marry". But also love is about what if God called you to do something that was pretty crazy and out of the box? Would you still love God? Would you still follow your mission? Would you still have purpose? So that's a theme, is taking these people who're so in love and so excited about what they have in the future, and all of a sudden everything's turned upside down, and now their life has changed and they've had a message from God: "This is what I want you to do". Will they do it? The bigger question is, would we do it? You know, would you or I do that if God said, "Hey, I'm going to ask you to do something that's totally crazy, but this is what I want you to do". Would we do that?

So that's a theme. And kings traveling across the world to see a newborn king is another, a mission, like, "I want to see the Messiah". The shepherds we represent in our story, the first followers of Christ, they take a risk by coming to this city when they're not allowed in the city, even a little persecution, so they can get to the manger. So these themes are throughout, which is love and mission and purpose. Those come through a lot of different characters, a lot of different storylines, but mainly through Mary and Joseph. There's this scene we have, actually, it's right out here behind us, and it's when all the kings have come in and they've already seen the young Jesus and they've presented their gifts, and then we pick them up later at night and they're all in the square. There's tables all around. They're sharing food. They're getting to know each other.

And all these different nations, Africa and China and Persia and the Jewish people, they're all intermixed and they're all enjoying each other's company and trying to explain their journey to each other in the languages they really don't understand. And young Jesus is playing with a young African prince or a young Chinese princess, and they're running through the streets. And to me, that is one of my favorite moments in the show because, you know, the Bible says, "For God so loved the world". And I think sometimes we forget about that. We think, "Christmas and God is all about me," and it's not. It's really about the world. And I think in that scene, it pictures the true reason why Jesus came was for everybody no matter who you are, no matter where in this world you originate from, Jesus came for you, and it is something that's a gift for you. And I love that moment in the show. I've never seen that in any Christmas show before where we actually pull in the international world in one big picture and really set that stage for John 3:16.

Chris Patterson: Working with Dwight Campbell has been a real pleasure; he comes from the old school. He's been around a long time, has a great career. It's been an honor to work with him. He's made my life very simple. You know, sometimes we point the camera and that's what's being lit. Dwight understands that we're probably going to look a lot more when we go in for coverage, look all over the place; and he knows that. So he pre-lights basically almost everything, so you can turn around and you're going to be lit at least 180 degrees, if not 270 degrees, and I think that's pretty impressive, you know. I mean, I remember right in the beginning of the shoot I was like, "Hey, Dwight, you think we could do this"? And he looked at me, he's like, "Just frame up". And I appreciate that, and that's why I was like, "All right, I know how we're going to roll here, cool". But that gives me the ability to just work with Paul one-on-one, get the coverage for Paul that we need to get, and trusting Dwight to, you know, set the lamps and light it and get us to all the exposures we need to be.

When I can shoot stuff, and he looks at me and says, "Hey, man, that looked pretty good," that makes me feel good. Again, the guy, he lit the abyss. He lights just right. He doesn't over-light it. He keeps it a little dim, keeps it right where we need to be. We've been, I think that's a lot of our look is due to Dwight. And then also Kevin Gilt, you know, on the grip side bringing his team in to, you know, camera support as far as just, you know, backing Dwight with, you know, cutting lights and shaping it. Paul has been amazing. Back in our pre-pro, we would sit there and I would sit in his office for hours, three hours at a time. He is so creative and such a kind person. And what I really noticed about him, you know, is the microscale of creativity. He knows how to work with actors. I like photography, but he sees small things and little details, little movements of the hands, the head twist here, little pieces like that. So Paul can really focus on his actors and get the performance he needs out of them, where he trusts me to just frame up the shot and get that for him.

Paul Joiner: I feel like if we did this show and it's about God and it's about bringing love and peace to the world and we didn't have that as far as our team and the set, I would feel like a hypocrite. So if there's anything I'm proud of, I'm proud of that we had a great set with great people. Everyone got along. It didn't have any struggles. It just really feel blessed that we just really had a great family dynamic, and I think that's what Christmas is about, is family and loving others and gifts. So I think the gift part for me personally was that everyone was so kind and cool and helpful and creative. I'm proud of that. I don't think anyone can walk away and say that was a bad experience. I hope everyone will say that was, "Why the Nativity?" was a great experience, and I would do that again.

So if there's one thing I would want people to get out of this particular film is to maybe see the Christmas story with new eyes, maybe see Jesus with new eyes. I think we all have these ideas of who Jesus is, who God is, what the Christmas story is all about; and we either accept it or we reject it or we just don't know. I think every once in a while, I think Christmas is a good time just to stop for a moment and say, "Maybe I should reflect on this a little bit to see where I'm at, to kind of reset my spiritual life to find out if there's any greater purpose than just living each day as it comes". And I pray that when people watch "Why the Nativity?" it will be a little thought-provoking and it would give, whether you're a believer or a non-believer, you'll give Jesus a second chance, a second thought and maybe just enjoy the experience as you've never before and say, you know, "I will take a moment and see something with fresh eyes, and maybe that will change me. Maybe that will change others". But that's what I would really hope people would get from "Why the Nativity?"
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