“I’m not buying anything in this store,” I said to a friend of mine as I was leaving a heavily-Americanized store in the heart of Jerusalem. My cynicism had reached a new high at a particularly commercialized stop on our pilgrimage. Then I saw these sheep. I turned them over and was surprised to find them made in Palestine by individuals in the L’Arche community. I bought one for each of my kids. I am such a sucker.
If not familiar, L'Arche Internationale is a network of communities that strive to affirm and empower God’s beloved who happen to have various intellectual and developmental disabilities. Henri Nouwen’s early visits to France and eventual residency within L’Arche Toronto led him to believe this is where he most fully experienced the Eucharist. Nouwen would even go on to write a book about a relationship with one of the L’Arche members who was severely disabled. The book is titled, Adam: God’s Beloved. I think if Jesus were to walk the earth today, he would spend significant time alongside these beautiful bearers of God’s image.
I bought a lot of symbols of my travels in the Holy Land, to include this olive-wood carving made by local Palestinian artisans in Bethlehem. But there is something about these googly-eyed sheep that regularly tugs at my heart whenever I see them on our mantle...or being played with as a part of my kiddos’ make believe. They remind me that all of us are God’s beloved and there is no one who does not possess the capacity to reflect God’s love someway, somehow. Where might you see it in someone or some place unexpected this Christmas? Dare to have eyes and hearts wide open.
Read more about L’Arche and Henri Nouwen here: https://www.larche.org.uk/henri-nouwen
Also, the co-op where these sheep were made: https://bethlehemhandicraft.org/members/larche/ Ma'an lil-Hayat / L'Arche Bethlehem