What a perfect Christmas bauble for aficionados of musicals and those who walk in the Christian faith.

“Journey to Bethlehem” is full of wonderful songs – some new and some familiar hymns – beautiful choreography and noteworthy performances.

‘Journey to Bethlehem’ (IMDb)

It’s the story of The Nativity, complete with the angel Gabriel, the Three Wise Men, King Herod’s decree, and a young couple who find their lives turned upside down.

Mary (Fiona Palomo) isn’t happy when her father announces she is engaged to Joseph, a man she never has met. “I want to marry for love,” she complains. Joseph (Milo Manheim,) like Mary, is skeptical about an arranged marriage.  

Adam Anders directed this wonderful movie and co-wrote it with Peter Barsocchini. Its script is smart, and it has quite a bit of gentle humor that blends with its Bible-based dialogue and message of hope.

The leads are great and share a delightful onscreen chemistry. Antonio Banderas has one of his best roles as the villainous King Herod, with an oversize, scene-stealing personality.  

I especially enjoyed Antonio Banderas’ number “It’s Good to Be King,” and his son’s song “In My Blood,” but all the music is engaging, with its memorable tunes and clever lyrics. (One number at the end features Steven Curtis Chapman and We the Kingdom.)

The film truly is a romance, too, showing the young couple attracted to each other despite their doubts. Their dance in a gorgeous environment is touching and sweet. And it’s also a thriller as Mary and Joseph seek refuge before their child is born.

It will come as no surprise that the finale is just as lovely and endearing as the rest of the film.

I can see so many audiences enjoying this: Families with older children, church groups, and viewers who enjoy musicals.

This feels like an instant classic to me – one that deserves to become a Christmas tradition.

3 ½ stars

Rated: PG for some adult material.

Running time: One hour and 38 minutes.

Only in theaters.

Watch the trailer here.