The Christmas "Jesus from Below"

Kara Powell | Dec 21, 2009

Last week, I received the following e.mail update from Kris Rocke. I’ve come to respect Kris, who is one of teachers in our FYI Urban Youth Ministry Certificate program, and the Executive Director of the Center for Transforming Mission. I haven’t verified the data below, but I love the idea of welcoming the “Jesus from below…” Maybe this can help you have a more justice-centered and authentic discussion about Christmas with teenagers.

“If John the Baptist teaches us anything, it is safe to say that, in all of our preparations for the messiah, we almost never prepare for the one that actually comes. Biblically speaking, Christmas ALWAYS comes as a surprise. The invitation of the Gospel is to learn how to welcome the Jesus that actually shows up, whether we’ve prepared for him or not.

When we take the stained glass off the text and set aside the sentimental projections of ourselves, the Jesus of the Bible is breathtaking and takes on a decidedly subversive shape - one that I am not altogether comfortable with, if I am honest. However, my hunch is that for every person in the world who is afflicted by this portrait there are at least 10 others who are comforted.

The following is a simple portrait of Christ that we use in our training. We call it ‘Jesus from below.’ It is the Jesus that emerges when we read the Bible with and for those who have been labeled the least. It is a decidedly different image from the one that emerges when we read the Bible from the position of power, which often yields a Jesus that justifies us.

The portrait deserves more explanation, but hopefully you will be able to see its biblical roots. The inset facts represent those who might find comfort in this messiah. May it be so this Christmas.

The Middle East is Asiatic

Nearly 60% the world is Asian born

See Matthew’s genealogy

Multi-racial is fastest growing demo in the U.S.

Grandma Tamar (prostitute)
Grandma Rahab (prostitute)
Grandma Ruth (Incest survivor)
Grandma Bathsheba (Murderous Affair)

4 million women, children victims of sexual slavery and trafficked as sex slaves in world worth $20 billion annually.

Not everybody bought the virgin Birth story.

79% of births to teenagers in U.S. are outside marriage resulting in bastard children.

Mary was probably 13

One million teenage girls become pregnant every year in the U.S.

Temple offering of the poor

1.7 Million U.S. children are in families that live on less than $6645 a year for family of 5.

Flees persecution to Egypt

50 million people in the world have been forced to flee their homes in the last 10 years.

Returns to Israel

8.7 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

Friend of sinners

8 million suffer from alcoholism and 15 million from drug dependency

Jesus’ family thought he was “out of his mind”

45 million suffer serious mental illness

Went through cities of Galilee

By 2020 over 60% of the world’s population will be urban, young and poor.

No place to “lay his head”

3 million homeless men, women and children, last year in US

Broke Sabbath Laws

25% of Young Adult African American Males are Incarcerated or on parole.

Seen as cursed by God

The leading motivations for hate crimes in U.S. are “race” 53% religion 16% and sexual orientation 15%


Every 11 minutes a child is reported abused or neglected in the U.S. - nearly 3 million.

“My God, My God…”

Of 72 million young people in US, almost 25% live w/o their father. 50% for African-American


Black males (14-24) make up 1% of the U.S. population but 30% of all homicides.

Shows Thomas his eternal wounds

150 million suffer from a chronic medical condition. 5 Million suffer chronic pain. 15% of vets suffer severe depression/PTSD.

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.

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