One of those personal epiphany moments for me occurred in 1977 while visiting the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. I was struck by the various national mosaics of Madonna and Child or the Holy Family fashioned after many different ethnic identities: China, Scotland, Poland, etc. This helped me see that ethnic narrowness is not helpful in the church, that Christ belongs to the people of all nations. Yes, he was a Jew, born in Roman-occupied Palestine over 2,000 years ago. But we really don’t know what he looked like. We don’t know what color his skin was or what shade his hair was. Our best guesses might be that he had olive colored skin tone and dark, even black hair, but this is guesswork. What color were his eyes? Don’t know. Probably not blue, but really don’t know.
I have purchased nativity sets for my wife from various nations over the years, and they are proudly displayed in our home right now. There is one from the Philippines.
There is one from Chile (that I bought at a missionary convention).
There is one from Uganda.
And there is a traditional American one that belonged to my mother. It was hand painted ceramic, made especially for her by a woman in the early 1960s. You can see that while the folks in this one have middle eastern features, clothing, and beards, their skin is very white.
1. We don’t know and anyone who says they do is not telling the truth.
2. It doesn’t matter. Would you love Jesus any less if his skin color was different than what you have imagined?
So, let’s love Jesus in our own way. The Church of the Annunciation shows us that it is OK to imagine the Holy Family according to our traditions. He is the Christ for all Nations, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. And his Kingdom and his Peace will be forever.
Nebraska Christian College