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Sherry Hayes-Peirce reviews Journey to Bethlehem, a movie musical depicting the events surrounding the birth of Jesus.

Advent begins this weekend, and we all begin our own journey to Bethlehem spiritually. A beautiful movie, Journey to Bethlehem, is in theatres for families to watch. I watched it with friends for a second time and really loved it! While some might find the film to take too much creative license with the story of the Nativity, it is so engaging for the next generation and provides children to see the story unfold in a more contemporary way as they sing along and even move to the music.  



The movie starts with Mary finding out that she has been betrothed to Joseph and she balks at the news, because she longed to be a teacher. She even asks her father, “Why did you allow me to study the Scriptures?” He reminds her that tradition demands that she be married. She is devastated and laments, “I thought I was made for more.”

Her mother says, “Sometimes God’s plan is bigger.”  

Her sisters cheer her up by singing a catchy tune, “Mary is getting Married.” She even meets her betrothed in the marketplace. He’s not some old man like we have been taught, but youthful as she is. He too was reluctant about getting married because he also had dreams that would be dashed with the responsibility of being a husband and father.

The Angel Gabriel visits Mary after the betrothal celebration, a bit clumsy like Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life. Again. this helps the viewer to feel like the story is unfolding in a familiar way, rather than in documentary fashion. It shows how Joseph is challenged to believe what the Angel said to Mary, and she is sent to visit her cousin Elizabeth in the hopes of the betrothal being broken quietly. The Angel visits Joseph encouraging Joseph to join Mary and to hear God’s message clearly and accept the roles that God has given them.   

“Faith is knowing in your heart what is true.”  

Mary and Joseph's wedding is depicted as a beautifully magical event and seeing them actually tie the knot as in Jewish ritual, then surrounded by lights in a Disney-style movie sequence, truly warms the heart. While the story of the Holy Innocents is omitted to show the son of Herod, Antipater, is capable of changing his heart and faith is stronger than a bloodline, the narrative of the census drawing Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem remains and parallels the story of the Magi’s journey to find the Christ child, sparking so much laughter. It does also make one think: what is so valuable about myrrh?  

As the couple travels, Mary is weary from the journey and Joseph feels inadequate, seeing her suffer. He questions his ability to take care of her, but Mary reminds him he was chosen just as she was to fulfill God’s plan.   

“Patience is a good companion on a journey.” 




The star is transformed beautifully into a choir of angels overlooking the birth of our Lord in a stable with Mary’s pet donkey Fig there to behold the blessed event. Again, there is creative license when Antipater finds the Holy Family and Magi, and Mary hears the voice of Angel Gabriel telling her, “Cower Before No One,” sparking her confrontation of a powerful man. Clearly, in those times that would not have been allowed.  

This is a great holiday movie, and it would be great to see while it’s still in theaters (through November 30, 2023). Next year it will be available to screen at parishes, but in the meantime, sharing this movie with your parish leadership team this year helps you to plan a screening for next year during Advent. Find showings in your area at  Tickets.JourneyToBethlehemMovie.com.   

The soundtrack just became available; you can listen on many music streaming platformsYou can also download free discussion guides for parents, families, parishes, and adults, as well as coloring sheets and other resources.

What a wonderful new tradition for families and parishes to begin the Advent season.  

Editor's note: Listen to a recent episode of the Catholic Momcast, where Lisa M. Hendey interviews the writers and director of this movie


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