Historians trace the communal celebration of Christmas to Rome and the 4th century reign of the emperor Constantine. What would eventually become the world’s largest birthday party started rather small, but likely as a response to the widespread secular recognition of the winter solstice.
Christian believers were somewhat reluctant to recognize Jesus’ miraculous arrival in Bethlehem at all thanks to pagan customs that made a big deal out of a person’s birthday. They nevertheless finally pressed ahead, and over 1,600 years later, the celebration dominates conversation, and attention, and continues to evolve.
One tradition that’s gathered steam in recent decades has been the explosion of Christmas films and concerts – highly produced and polished productions that, if done well, can inspire and capture the true meaning of the season. To be fair, many out there don’t measure up or completely ignore Christ’s starring role.
In fact, the Lifetime Channel recently bragged they’ll soon have the distinction of featuring the first “sex scene” in a Christmas movie. They actually boasted the movie “barely” mentions the word “Christmas.”
Families will have no such worries or embarrassment with Because of Bethlehem, a new Christmas film produced by beloved pastor and bestselling author Max Lucado. It’s a Fathom event, and it’s available in theaters for a limited run this coming December 5th through the 7th.
Hosted by Pastor Max, the program is nearly two hours of non-stop Yuletide cheer, and it features musical performances by CeCe Winans, Anne Wilson, Matt Maher and Evan Craft. Matthew West will also debut a new song.
Speaking with Lucado, he told us the seeds for this special film project date to his childhood when his father said simply but pointedly, “Boys, Christmas is about Jesus.”
“God knows what it’s like to be a human,” observed the pastor. “When I talk to Him about deadlines or long lines or tough times, He understands. He’s been there. He’s been here. Because of Bethlehem, I have a friend in heaven. Because of Bethlehem, I have a Savior in heaven.”
Before Because of Bethlehem was a movie, it was a book, which Lucado released in 2016.
Although senior pastor at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, since 1988, the popular preacher and teacher has written nearly 100 books that have sold over 145 million copies. He doesn’t employ a ghostwriter and pens every word himself. Many of his books began as sermons, so he has the luxury of seeing what messages and stories resonate with audiences before crafting them into book form.
He’s been called “America’s Pastor” by Christianity Today and the “Best Preacher in America” by Reader’s Digest. Arbitrary and subjective distinctions, to be sure, but the honors do reflect an ability to effectively minister.
Like many pastors, Max sees Christmas as a unique opportunity to engage the curious and tell them about Jesus.
“Maybe your life resembles a Bethlehem stable,” he says. “Crude in some spots, smelly in others. Not much glamour. Not always neat. People in your circle remind you of stable animals: grazing like sheep, stubborn like donkeys, and that cow in the corner looks a lot like the fellow next door. You, like Joseph, knocked on the innkeeper’s door. But you were too late. Or too old, sick, dull, damaged, poor, or peculiar. You know the sound of a slamming door.”
“So here you are in the grotto, always on the outskirts of activity it seems. You do your best to make the best of it, but try as you might, the roof still leaks, and the winter wind still sneaks through the holes you just can’t seem to fix. You’ve shivered through your share of cold nights. And you wonder if God has a place for a person like you. Find your answer in the Bethlehem stable.”
Through his inspirational and encouraging writings and now this new film, Pastor Max Lucado reminds us once more why we celebrate the triumphant festival of Christmas – the greatest story ever told about the greatest man who ever lived. Because of Bethlehem will lift your spirits and eyes to the wonder of the Christ child – and because of Max Lucado, we now have a joy-filled, heartwarming and positive outing for the whole family.
Image credit: Fanthom Events