Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise. (Psalm 96: 1-4a)
It is fitting that the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, be expressed through song. In Luke 1:46-55, Mary sings a song of praise when she learns that she has been called to be the mother of God’s only Son. The angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” And the wisemen bow down and worship Jesus (Matthew 2:11). Even the prophet, Isaiah, declares words of praise:
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
Every Christmas, we gather together in churches around the world to sing a plethora of seasonal favorites. This Christmas we’ll be humming to the tunes of the musical “Journey to Bethlehem.” “The nativity story is sort of a musical at the heart of it. These angels show up and they’re singing to shepherds,” says Joel Smallbone of King + Country who plays Antipater (King Herod’s oldest son) in the film.
Music in Journey to Bethlehem
Songs bring out something unique within us. They pull on our emotions and reveal something deep within us. Fiona Paloma, who plays Mary, says, “Music is the universal language. [The movie] is a beautiful balance between very grounded, real human problems, purposes and barriers with theater and color.”
This isn’t just another “Glee” or “High School Musical” produced by Adam Anders, it’s a story that no human can comprehend, made into a musical that generates an intimate view of what it means for God to become flesh. “I have had a dream to create a Christmas musical for years and to see it come to life with a stunning cast has exceeded every expectation,” said director Adam Anders. “We could not be more excited for this film to be a classic for years to come.”
“It’s such an ancient story but all the music is so modern. It feels like two things that really wouldn’t go together but we’re creating a movie that I absolutely… love. The music is incredible,” states Milo Manheim who stars in several Disney musicals, and performs as a true triple threat. “I hope this music goes down in history because I’m going to be listening to it for a long time,” said Milo. “It’s one of the best musicals I’ve ever been a part of.”
The Depth of Journey to Bethlehem
“Journey to Bethlehem” is a playful and fun take on the ancient account of Jesus’ birth. It shares the incredible story of the most remarkable event of all times and reveals God’s character. He is fun, He does laugh, He is good and will always prevail. He is reverent and glorious. He is precious yet strong and mighty. He draws all of us to Him, so He can be near to us.
There is always a deeper layer to God’s work. One layer to this film is discovering our identity and purpose in Christ. God has created each of us with a unique story and perspective of His story. We all approach life differently, yet we are all loved by the same God. The creators of the film developed an awesome download that will help viewers understand their identity and purpose a little more. In the download it says, “Your perceived identity determines the reality of your obedience to God’s call on your life. When we see ourselves as God’s servants, we’re compelled to obey His commands. When we identify as ambassadors for Christ and partners in His tribulation, kingdom, and endurance, we look for ways to share His gospel every day.”
Beloved rapper Lacrea, who plays Gabriel in the movie, faithfully proclaims, “Though I’m not an archangel, I’m still a messenger. For me, the message may not be this grandiose, but the goodness, the care, the grace and the love that embodies my faith is a message I should extend to people on a regular basis.” We are all messengers. We all have an opportunity to share the love, hope and compassion of Jesus Christ. This film “speaks to a young audience who is wrestling with their purpose and their worth and their value and their meaning,” states Lacrea.
Looking at Mary in Journey to Bethlehem
Mary was a young woman who was challenged by the unthinkable. “Suddenly, her entire life and everything she’s lived and the scripture she’s been studying since she was a kid… everything kind of bundles up into a huge question mark,” Fiona describes. One of the key songs she sings, “Mother of a Savior” asks God to “give me eyes to see how I can carry your son when I need you to carry me.” Many people, young or old, need God to carry them. But, it isn’t the weak who end up relying on His strength. Instead, it’s those who are strong. Adam Anders explains, “It was important to me that Mary was strong. Why should God choose her of all the women available? I don’t think it was because she was weak. I think God looked down and said, ‘I need the strongest woman I can find to pull this off. The greatest task in history, the most important woman in history.’ And Joseph, he had to be strong. She should have been stoned. He took her stain upon him and stood by her when everybody said, ‘Don’t do it.’ ”
“We’re so used to this story being told in a very simple way. But when you really think about the cultural context of the time it just makes no sense that God would enter the world through a new born baby, let alone have that baby be born in a barn,” exclaims Moriah, who plays one of Mary’s sisters. She continues by saying, “I’m just so excited for the world to have the gift of Fiona’s interpretation and bone-deep understanding of Mary.”
What we can learn from Antipater
Mary and Joseph are essential to Jesus’ birth, but Adam Anders adds Antipater to “Journey to Bethlehem.” He’s not in the scriptural accounts of Jesus’ birth, but his role in the film is outstanding. “I started some research and I found that Herod’s first born son, Antipater was killed by Herod the same year Jesus was born. Antipater tried to overthrow his father because he thought he was unfit to serve and to rule.” “Journey to Bethlehem” demonstrates that there’s a real battle between good and evil, and Antipater is one character who wrestles with this internal pull. So, through the film, Adam asks, “What if he had a conversion experience? What if he was sent to find Mary. What if he found her, but he also found the true king? This is the gospel story. He is the story in us and what it means for us to meet Jesus. It changes us.”
Milo expresses the same sentiment, “This story has changed me in so many ways. It’s made me think differently about my life. My number one priority was to honor this story.” May you enter this Christmas season with a longing and a desire to honor the story of Christ’s birth, opening yourself up to God and how He wants to change your heart.