Luke 2: 1-20
We are used to seeing Jesus look like us white people. Well, maybe Jesus looks like we did 500 years ago, like this Madonna and Child by Fra Bartolomeo. Or maybe Jesus looks like this image of Jesus painted in 1940 by Warner Sallman.
I went through a phase a few years ago, thinking that Jesus should look like an ancient Israeli. So, when I saw this a few years ago, published by Popular Mechanics, I was excited. Some forensic scientists used data from archaeology as well as some details found in scripture to construct this possibility.
But then I realized the images from Bartolomeo, Sallman, and even the one made by the scientists didn’t look like some of my friends and coworkers, and in my congregation. To correct that imbalance, I want to share with you some images of Jesus and Mary as portrayed in other cultures.
Why is it so important for us to see the variety of images for Jesus and his mother? Because Jesus came for everyone. He came for white folks, and he came for Asian folks and Native American folks and for African folks, and for South American folks.
Jesus came for people in all sorts of economic and political circumstances: wealthy and poor and middle class; Republican, Democrat, and Independent; dressed in our finest suit and dressed in blue jeans.
And, just as we like to see Jesus looking like us, so does everyone else. It’s when we can see Jesus looking like us that we can feel the love he gives to us.
Although Jesus spoke Hebrew and Aramaic, and probably Greek, Jesus also speaks our words, our languages to us.
If I say to you “ya tsebya lyublyu”, chances are good you have no idea what I am saying. It is “I love you” in Russian. If you speak other languages, it is likely that you know how to say “I love you” in those languages as well. For example: Te quiero, Je t’aime, Ich liebe dich.
How many of you know what this means? It’s American Sign Language for “I love you”, and it is formed by a combination of the three words into one.
When we see a baby, any baby, or a pregnant mother’s belly, we can scarcely take our eyes off the baby. We want to reach out and love on them, because we are filled with love just at the sight of them, even if we don’t know them.
We need to see God in our own image and hear God speaking to us in our own language in order to know how much God really loves us. This is how God loves us. This is why God chose to come to us as an infant, so we could know the extent of God’s love for us. God will try anything to reach us, anything!
Tonight we focus on God’s birth as the infant Jesus. It won’t be long before we are focusing on the crucifixion and resurrection, other signs of how much God loves us.
In the meantime, because God has come to us as a human, as the Incarnation, as God-with-skin-on, as God-with-us, as Emmanuel, we can pause to feel the love. And we can take the opportunity to share God’s love with others.
One closing image. Can you see the love and delight in this mother’s eyes? This is how much Jesus loves and delights in you.