Created by congregant and artist John Zachary, the Nativity at Claremont United Methodist Church depicts Martin in a hooded sweatshirt over a pool of blood.
Zachary wanted the scene to create a link between the time of Jesus’ birth and gun violence.
"He was, in my view, an innocent child like the innocent children killed by King Herod," Zachary, 57, said of Martin. "I think the Nativity has to be relevant to our time. I think Jesus is a symbol of hope and I think he has to be seen in today's context."
Not everyone has been supportive of the depiction, and the scene has been called "sacrilege" and an "abomination” on social media.
"No Christian I know would ever disparage Jesus Christ with such a repulsive image," one person wrote on Facebook. "I would never attend your church as a fellow Methodist and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves."
Zachary admitted he had some doubts about the work, but decided to create it anyway. "I have had reservations, although I have come to think that it's the right way to do it," he said. "I feel a little sad that some people are so outraged about it."
Even though the Nativity has been criticized, Rev. Dan Lewis, a pastor at the church, stands by it.
"Nothing is done flippantly here," Lewis said. "It's got great thought, great depth and great meaning."
[Los Angeles Times]