Christian actress Patricia Heaton has shared how she keeps Christ at the center of Christmas -- and why she hopes the holiday spirit will last far beyond December in our "divided" nation.
Known for starring in "The Middle" and "Everybody Loves Raymond," the three-time Emmy winner recently spoke with The Gospel Herald about the animated Christmas film "The Star," in which she voices Edith the cow.
"I'm Catholic and I got to mass a couple times a week," Heaton shared. "So, I kind of try to stay in there. There are so many distractions in our lives, especially around Christmas, because if you have little kids, it's a big deal and we get caught up in the gift-giving and the wrapping and the buying and the shopping. So, I think it's really important to have time to relax together as a family, and I think this movie is a great way to focus on the real story of Christmas the way that we celebrate it."
"The Star," currently in theaters, tells the story of the nativity through the perspective of the animals that traveled with Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and witnessed Jesus' birth. In addition to Heaton, the film stars Gina Rodriguez as Mary (Mother of Jesus), Zachary Levi as Joseph, Oprah Winfrey, and Kelly Clarkson.
As both a Christian and comedian, Heaton said she was drawn to "The Star" because of its humorous elements, but also to the film's dedication to telling the true, gospel-centered story of Jesus' birth.
"One would want to be cautious about doing something less than reverent about the story of the birth of Christ; it's an important story to millions and millions of people all over the world, it's important to me," she said. "But, what I saw here, because it's through the eyes of the animals, it's an opportunity to have humor, to do physical comedy, and that really opens up people's hearts."
"As a performer in comedies for almost 20 years, I see how people - their hearts really open, and the message at the end of the movie of peace and forgiveness and joy can really come through because your heart is prepared for it. I think they've done a wonderful job of being reverent in all the right places but having a little bit of fun with the animals," she continued.
Heaton expressed hope that in today's "divided" world, the film will bring a sense of unity and peace this holiday season.
"I think to be able to take time to see a movie that's about the things that are important in life -- which is hope and joy and peace and love and forgiveness -- we need that in the world right now," she said. "This is a great reminder and it's funny and it's warm and it's entertaining and you just come out feeling lighthearted and really in the Christmas spirit."
"So, if we can bring the Christmas spirit back into the world and maybe carry it through past December, that would be wonderful thing," she added.
Directed by Academy Award-nominated writer/director Timothy Reckart, "The Star," Heaton emphasized, isn't just for children -- it's for all audiences
"This is the first Nativity movie at Christmas that that's ever been made," she said. "There hasn't been a Christmas movie like this. It's long overdue, and I think they do a wonderful job of making it enjoyable and entertaining even if you are not from a faith based family. So, everybody can enjoy the movie."
"The Star" was executive-produced by DeVon Franklin ("Miracles From Heaven"), and Lisa Henson and Brian Henson (The Jim Henson Company). The screenplay was written by Carlos Kotkin with digital animation by Cinesite Studios.
For more information about the film, click here.