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Christmas With The Chosen: “Holy Night”

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In Theaters


Home Release Date




Adam R. Holz

Movie Review

The Chosen series returns to theaters again this Christmas (courtesy of Fathom Events from December 12-16) with a new special that fuses two important episodes in this series’ history: “The Shepherd” and “The Messengers.”

Those who are familiar with The Chosen might already know that “The Shepherd” isn’t really even an episode of the series proper at all. More like a “proto-pilot” or proof of concept. In the introduction to this presentation, Jenkins talks about how he filmed this new look at the Christmas story for his church in Illinois back in 2017. It was such an unexpected hit that it became the catalyst for The Chosen’s production.

Two Stories, Woven Together

Back in 2021, we reviewed Christmas With The Chosen: “The Messengers.” It gives us an intimate, gritty and profoundly tender glimpse into what Joseph and Mary’s desperate attempt to find lodging before Jesus’ arrival might have been like.

I won’t revisit that part of the story here, but rather point you back to our original review, as that story in its entirety is woven in here.

What may be new to many fans, however, is “The Shepherd.” This part of the story introduces us to Simon, who is, you guessed it, a poor and truly lowly shepherd.

Simon, you see, is lame in one leg, walking with a limp and a cane to support himself. He’s the butt of dismissive jokes, even among his fellow earthy sheep-minders. They want little to do with him, telling him to go sleep with the sheep while they joke coarsely (mostly making fun of Romans and Pharisees’ foibles) around a campfire in the countryside.

We also witness Simon’s painful attempt to bring a lamb to sacrifice at the temple—a sacrifice that’s rejected harshly by a Pharisee there who spots a blemish on the animal.

Indeed, blemish is the watchword here. Like the rejected animal not worthy of sacrifice, Simon, too, is rejected by everyone.

But Simon is closest to the miraculous events that transpire next. As Mary gives birth to Jesus in a dingy stable, a fierce wind snuffs out the shepherds’ torches, followed by a radiant display of heavenly light in the distance.

Lame leg notwithstanding, Simon runs to the source of the light: that equally lowly manger, where he and his fellow shepherds meet the baby Jesus.

When Simon and the shepherds spontaneously rush into their village to share what they’ve witnessed, Simon runs smack into the Pharisee who rejected him. “You!” the man says. “I told you not to come back here. So where is it? Have you found a spotless lamb for sacrifice?”

Simon simply smiles.

Sing We Now of Christmas

As was the case with the first Chosen Christmas special, this one likewise includes a number of artists singing Christ-focused Christmas carols, including: Andrea and Matteo Bocelli; Brandon Lake; Zach Williams; Matt Maher; Phil Wickham; Maverick City Music; Bryan and Katie Torwalt; Jordan Feliz; The Bonner Family; and the One Voice Children’s Choir.

Two monologues bookend the performances and story, one from Amanda Jenkins (Dallas’ wife), the other from Chosen writer Tyler Thompson. Both reflect upon the River Jordan as a metaphor for spiritual growth as well as an ever-present geographical touchstone in the life of Christ.

“Like the rippling currents of an ever-changing river,” Jenkins says, “God is on the move. And that means we must move, to make space in our hearts. Is there room in yours?”

Thompson later adds, “Wherever you are this Christmas, whether in the fresh pool of your own version of a promised land, or caught in the riptide of salt tears that won’t stop falling from your eyes, or somewhere in between, the living Christ, who walked along these very banks, sees you. … No matter what it looks like now, there will be peace in you, and around you, in mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”

From Quiet Desperation to Living Hope

Henry David Thoreau famously wrote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” You can feel that desperation at times in this story. In Joseph. In Mary. In a lame shepherd trying so hard to find acceptance but experiencing only rejection.

Perhaps you feel that quiet desperation, too. I know I do.   

We live amid unceasing hustle and desperation. Pressure and deadlines. Demands and expectations. Secret hurts, hidden in our hearts, even as we go about our mostly mundane tasks: We work, we love, we sleep, we wonder. Sometimes we weep. And then we do it all over again the next day.

Our stories, they are each different. Yet each, paradoxically, is also the same: We make our way through our days, looking for meaning and purpose, aware in tender moments of those quiet aches in our joints, in our souls, in our relationships.

Watching Christmas With The Chosen: “Holy Night,” I felt all of that. And I was confronted anew with the startling story at the core of our faith: Jesus came into our world—our sweaty, bloody, weary world—to give us an anchor beyond the desperation that stalks our long days and sometimes longer nights. His first cries pierce the night, even as the shepherds burst through a barn door to witness His tiny majesty, knowing that this babe’s plaintive wails herald hope.

More than once watching this story, I felt tears welling up. Tears of my own tiredness, my own longing for hope, my own recognition of how easy—oh, how perilously, ridiculously easy—it is to lose track of what matters most.

But there He is, the one born in a lowly manger to two scared but beautifully trusting kids: Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us. Christmas With The Chosen: “Holy Night” imagines what that precious night might have looked like, pointing us once more toward Jesus. 

That is the message here. And oh how we need to be reminded of the hope that his birth still brings.

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Adam R. Holz

After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.