Red Deer Lake United Church has unveiled a new nativity scene that includes a unique variety of characters gathered in the manger.
The minister at the southwest Calgary church said it’s all about contemporizing some of the traditional imagery.
“I really wanted to come up with a nativity scene that could shock and provoke people into stopping and engaging and trying to figure out: what does Christmas really mean?” said Rev. Nick Coates.
The nativity scene has wise men depicted as folk musician and poet Michael Franti, Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar and First Nations leader Perry Bellegarde.
Joseph is dressed as a modern carpenter. He and Mary represent today’s immigrants.
“Mary and Joseph were moving from Bethlehem to Nazareth but they became refugees shortly after that,” Coates said. “So it has a very relevant meaning for us as we talk about immigration and how we deal with people crossing our borders and separating parents from kids.
“This story should inform a lot about how we engage and hear that news and if we are Christians, how do we deal with that and what kind of policies should we be advocating for?”
The shepherds are disadvantaged teens who are meant to be anyone on the fringes of society.
The artist behind the images wanted to create something that would make people put more thought into Christmas and to help people see themselves in the Christmas story.
“It’s about a God that talks about inclusivity, that talks about respecting and loving each other for who they are.”
The church’s minister is hoping this sparks conversation and he doesn’t mind if it ruffles any feathers.
“I think it’s OK to push buttons and ask the questions,” Coates said. “That’s what this church is all about.
“We are taking this tongue in cheek and recognizing that we are pushing some boundaries and poking some people, but it’s all done in the spirit of: what does Christmas mean?”
Red Deer Lake United Church is located at the southwest end of Calgary, west of Spruce Meadows.