CLAREMONT (CBSLA) — With Christmas right around the corner, many churches have put up their nativity scenes – but one in Claremont featuring the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph separated and placed in cages has people stopping, talking and debating.

(credit: CBS)

The provocative nativity scene outside Claremont United Methodist Church raises the question – what would happen today if Mary and Joseph tried to bring baby Jesus across the border, seeking asylum in the U.S.?

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“Never have I seen a nativity scene like this,” Claremont resident Judi Rivera said. “It’s making a very bold statement.”

The Claremont church says it has for years taken the non-traditional route with its outdoor nativity scene in an effort to do something that reflects current discourse. Previously, their nativity scenes have featured a homeless Virgin Mary at a bus stop and young black man wearing a hoodie to evoke Trayvon Martin.

Today, it’s the question of families seeking asylum in the U.S. and being separated at the border.

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“It really makes me think. In a way, it puts a mirror in front of us, right now, so that bothers me,” Lars Schmitz said.

The church’s pastor, Rev. Karen Clark Ristine, says she doesn’t see the scene as a political statement. However, the images she posted of the nativity scene on Facebook have drawn thousands of comments, many of them sharply critical.

(credit: CBS)

Some have called the scene sacrilegious and blasphemy, while others called it powerful and brave.

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One commenter wrote, “inappropriate and incredibly false analogy…using the nativity scene for political agendas is WRONG. Ridiculous” But another wrote “Thank you for thought provoking visuals.”