Nativity Scenes and Economic Justice


I have four different nativity scenes.

As I set them up I noticed something: all four of my sets had the Holy Family (Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus) which is good, Jesus is central to this CHRISTmas thing. Three of my sets had the wise men. But not a single one of my sets had any shepherds.

Where are the poor and dirty teenagers and elderly who were watching their sheep by night?


A few years ago, I went to a one day institute class from the Christian Community Development Association, about Economic Redistribution.

One inspiring story was that of Pastor John Liotti, from East Palo Alto who after years of living in the neighborhood recognized that one of the biggest hinderances to Shalom life in his community was the lack of good banks.

There were check cashing businesses and payday lenders. Both of which were charging INSANE amounts of interest and fees, preying on the poor in the community and keeping them stuck in a cycle of poverty that went deeper and deeper with each transaction.

So with the help of some wise men [and women] (MBAs and entreprenuers) John’s community developed a plan and started a community credit union.

Not everyone has an MBA or experience with leading a profitable business, but everyone can do something to do economic redistribution:

  • Like going into community Jr. Highs and High Schools to teach financial literacy and poverty awareness.
  • Having a financial accountability question in small group ministries. “What did you spend your money on this week? Did you make any impulse buys that you regret now? How did you use your money for the kingdom?” This is going to take a lot of vulnerability, finance is one of the most sensitive topics in American culture right now.
  • Micro finance loans, like KIVA
  • Shopping at local and minority owned businesses.

*I originally wrote this post 3 years ago I’ve updated it a little, but the sentiment is essentially the same.

Last night at Youth Group we made a Nativity Scene out of garbage, to remind us that the people in the Christmas story were largely from the bottom of society (Shepherds, Mary, Joseph, the Baby), or even those who were in the upper classes of society they were people from the margins (Elizabeth and Zechariah [old and childless], the Maggi[Outsiders to Palestinian Culture])  This was a great idea from Rethinking Youth Ministry

Here are a couple of the individual elements from our Nativity Scene.

The Marshmallow/Scotch Tape Sheep

The Virgin Mary, she just gave birth, so her hair is funky.Baby Jesus in the manger