Claremont United Methodist Church, a church known for its unique and controversial Nativity scenes centering around current events, has created a new Nativity scene depicting the Holy family in the midst of a Black Lives Matter protest.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the Nativity scene shows Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus in front of a mural of people wearing masks and holding up signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe,” along with several other quotes. Some Bible verses and biblical sentiments are also included in the signs, including “Jesus wept,” (John 11:35) and “Do Justice. Love Kindness. Walk Humbly with God,” (Micah 6:8).
While the statue of Joseph kneels beside baby Jesus in the manger, Mary is shown with her arms in the air as she stands in solidarity with the protestors. Above the mural is a list of over 30 names of Black people who have been killed, including the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.
The Rev. Karen Clark Ristine, the church’s senior minister explained to the Los Angeles Times why the church felt the Nativity scene was the ideal way to speak out against racism.
“We couldn’t think of any other issue that we wanted to keep under the light of the Bethlehem star than the need to address racism,” Ristine said.
“We don’t want the need for continuing conversation of racism and white supremacy to get lost in news cycles,” she continued. “This is a centuries-old issue that we need to keep wrestling with.”
The idea for the project was birthed out of the church's “Creative Peacemaking” committee, which starts putting ideas together for the Advent season in March. The set, which took two months to make, was constructed by the church’s facilities engineer Genaro Cordova.
“We thought that racism was really worse, the worst epidemic that maybe we had around the world,” Cordova said. “COVID is going to pass, but the struggle [of] our brothers and sisters, Black Americans, is going to continue for a long time.”
Accompanying the exhibit was a theological statement published by the church, asserting their call to justice in accordance with their faith.
“We affirm and join the call for justice and equity by the Black Lives Matter movement to ensure that Black lives matter as much as any other life,” the statement reads. “Our faith in Christ challenges us to stand with Mary in her call for justice for the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed.”
In previous years, Claremont United Methodist Church produced Nativity scenes in line with current cultural issues. As Christian Headlines previously reported, last year, the church presented the Holy Family in separate cages to represent families who have been detained and separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Several years ago, the church created another set depicting Jesus’ family as homeless. Mary, who was huddled in a sleeping bag, was holding baby Jesus while she sat in a bus stop alongside a shopping cart.
In 2013, the church sparked controversy for its nativity scene featuring a black hooded figure depicting Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old shot and killed by George Zimmerman in 2012.
Instead of having baby Jesus in the manger, Martin was placed in the set, slumped over and bleeding from his chest. Written in a red pool of fake blood next to Martin was the message “A Child is Born, a Son is Given.”
Photo courtesy: Claremont United Methodist Church Facebook
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.