By Catherine Beaumont, Leeds Christian Community Trust
I still find this image as powerful as I did when I first came across it. It is called A Glasgow Nativity Scene, but it could be any city. It could be Leeds.
There is much to be offended by here. Some might be shocked at the Mum who smokes, or the Dad who is wanted by the police, or the dangerous dog, or the proceeds of crime being offered as gifts. Others might find it hard to get past the stereotyping and the implication that those who live in poverty cannot parent well.
The original nativity scene was equally offensive in its time. Shepherds were considered unclean – the lowest on the Palestinian social scale. The wise men came from a different culture and a different religion. The Holy Family were soon to begin their journey as refugees. We have romanticised the original stable to make it acceptable for our Christmas cards and our church displays, but in reality it would have been no more glamorous than this broken-down bus shelter.
For those of us who work amongst the excluded and the marginalised it can be hard to remember what a privilege this is. Imbalance of power can make us patronising; burnout may lead to cynicism and potential funders are often treated with more respect than is shown to our service users.
Over and over the Bible tells us that Jesus identifies with those society does not value and that it is among these people that He will be found. As we approach Christmas and the end of 2023, let us give thanks to God for all the people who have allowed us into their lives this year and have enabled us to find Him there.