The cast, directors and producers of the new film "Why the Nativity?" produced by televangelist David Jeremiah's Turning Point Studios have shared how creating the project inspired them in their own walks with Christ.
The film was released on Nov. 24 and is based on Jeremiah's 2006 book Why the Nativity?: 25 Compelling Reasons We Celebrate the Birth of Jesus. The project "looks in detail at the people that surround the Christmas story and why each of them was chosen for their specific purposes." The movie also delves into "God's plan of salvation, which He set in motion before time began."
"[My film] is better than any other story that anyone else can ever make up," said the 81-year-old senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in Suburban San Diego, California. "I narrate a lot of it while all this technicolor occurs. It's great. It's unique in many ways."
At a red-carpet screening held at the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C., those who worked on the project reflected on their roles in the film and how it impacted their spiritual lives.
Logan Polson, the actor who played Joseph, said taking on the role of the biblical figure who was faced with accepting the immaculate pregnancy of his soon-to-be wife taught him what it means always to trust God's plan despite the circumstances.
"It's surreal to have played such a faithful historical character. I was very surprised by Joseph and his grace and love throughout his time. One of the things that you think about historically and culturally is that if you find out that your soon-to-be wife is pregnant and it's not your baby, what would you do?" Polson said.
"Joseph had every right to disown her or toss her out. But he chose to stick it out. He chose to listen to the Lord amidst the world, probably telling him, 'No, this isn't right. Get rid of her.' But, he trusted the Lord, and through His faithfulness, God really showed up," the actor continued.
"Playing the role of Joseph makes me more aware of the fact that my hope and my faith isn't dictated by my circumstances or those around me. But, it is through me holding true and faithful to the Lord in every step."
Polson thanked God for being cast in the role of Joseph.
"It was such a blessing to be here in this surreal moment where I get to speak about my portrayal of Joseph and my participation in the revitalization of this story which has such historical truth," he said.
Rose Anaya, who played Mary, said her Christian faith was deepened as she felt the love of God reflected in the people she met in making the film.
"I grew up Christian, and my relationship with God isn't perfect. It has never been perfect. But, being surrounded by loving Christians and being able to relive the story through such influential individuals such as Mary and Joseph really helped me to connect to God," the actress said.
She hopes the film changes more lives as it did hers.
Evangelical Christian Paul Joiner, a film writer, said he felt intimacy in his relationship with Jesus increasing as he was reminded of Christ's love for all people while helping create the film.
"I hope viewers will watch the film and understand that God loves all the world. Our film is very diverse in ethnicity. And there are a lot of women's roles from China and Africa and other places. It's very much a 'so-God-loved-the-world,' Christmas film," said Joiner, who has worked for Turning Point Ministries for over 30 years.
Joiner said the film tries to answer common questions about why God chose Mary and Joseph to accomplish His divine work.
"Everyone is so familiar with Christmas that sometimes it comes and goes without any fresh meaning," Joiner said.
"Our goal was to create something that made people stop and think, 'Oh, wow, I never thought about that before, and now I see Christmas in a different way.'"
About 103 different actors and actresses were cast in the film. Weston Albert, who helped produce the film, said the film sends a message to viewers that "Jesus came for everyone" of all races, ethnicities and genders.
"We really wanted to show, through everyone that's involved, many different cultures," he said.
At the end of the film, everyone comes together for a final scene aimed at giving viewers a "glimpse of Heaven," Albert, a nondenominational Christian, said.
Before contributing to the film, Albert said he didn't give the biblical figures of Mary and Joseph much thought. The film helped him to see the two in a new and in-depth way.
"Seeing how these two characters were deeply in love and then, their whole world is turned upside down based on God's plan and their willingness to just push through that motivates me in my own faith," Albert stressed. "It makes me think, 'would I respond like Mary and Joseph did if God broke into my life in that way?'"
Albert said the producers wanted to "come up with some nuanced ways of telling this story." This included adding certain sounds, scenes and characters that could have been there at the beginning for Christ's birth.
"And I think that just freshens the story up a bit than what we are used to," he said.
Producer and production designer Tyler Novak said the most challenging aspect of creating the film was knowing many other nativity films exist and striving to set the docu-drama apart.
"I think we don't often get to see Mary and Joseph's romantic relationship and the struggle they faced," Novak stated.
"As it relates to the geography and architecture of the time, we really wanted to do something unique. We did a lot of historical research to make sure it's accurate. And we elevated it to this really beautiful presentation."
As the red carpet event concluded, attendees gathered in the Museum of the Bible's theater hall to view a screening of the film.
Actor, speaker, producer and voiceover artist Joseph Narducci told CP that bringing the nativity story to life was an incredible experience.
"The nativity story involves real people that lived in real time and shows them interacting with an extraordinary God. The nativity is a story for the people. The Hope, Christ, who was born in this way, is for the people. And the story is just as powerful and relevant now as it was then," Narducci said.
"Why The Nativity" is available on platforms that offer Turning Point Television.
Jeremiah told CP of the struggles they had in making the film. Despite battling the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, "God let it happen."
"We fought through COVID to make this movie. Almighty God took over, and to see how it came out depicting the story of the birth of Jesus is amazing," said Jeremiah.
"From a technical standpoint, I learned to trust in God when everything looked pretty bleak; as we pushed this [film] through COVID — which was really hard," Jeremiah admitted.
"I also learned that even though I've read the story of Christmas many times over the years, there's always something new to learn, sense and feel. I actually cried at times when I first watched the film because of all the emotion."