The holy family is separated, each in a cage with Jesus in between Joseph and Mary."We thought about the most famous refugee family in the world, the family of Jesus", said the Rev. Karen Clark Ristine of Claremont United Methodist Church.Inside the church, Jesus, Mary and Joseph are reunited as a family."What if this family sought refuge in our country today?"
"I think we need to be challenged in our ideas and I think that this is an awesome display especially in this time of year and what is going on in this country", community member Yvonne Cervantes told KTLA.
She wrote: "Stirred to tears by the Claremont UMC nativity".
It's not the first time the nativity story has been used as a political message. Ristine said the church has largely received support for the display but many online expressed their displeasure, calling it "disrespectful and sacrilegious".
"This is WRONG and Sacrilegious on so many levels!" one user wrote.
But others were offended by the nontraditional scene. "It is despicable that you can bring politics into our church!"
"I'm not sure if we're politicizing it", Father Stephen Josoma told local station WCVB on Monday.
"A nativity is the theological equivalent to public art, and the role of public art has always been to offer awareness", Ristine said.
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She added that "Jesus grew up to teach us kindness and mercy and a radical welcome of all people".
Last Christmas, churches in Indiana, Massachusetts and Oklahoma staged nativity scenes with all or some of the figures in cages, leading to the social media hashtag #holyfamilyseparated.
According to USA immigration officials, because of incentives in us laws and court decisions, numerous Central American families claiming asylum at the border after traversing through Mexico over the past two years are not families at all.
In response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, immigration authorities said in October that 5,400 children had been separated from their families beginning in July 2017.
At Claremont, the outdoor nativity, which sits along Old Route 66, a highway traveled by Dust Bowl migrants during the Great Depression, is paired with a second nativity inside the church's front doors. The Holy Family stays in Egypt until Herod dies.
"You are seeing them reunited as we believe it is in the realm of God's love", Ristine said.