The children had not rehearsed for the Christmas pageant at Grace Cathedral, but the relatives of the participants didn’t notice or care. The cherubic choir hit the high notes without straining, and the headdresses and sashes of the shepherds and wise men glittered under the lights.
The newly elected bishop of California greeted the assembly. He seemed in good spirits despite, or because of, his recent arrest for blocking the Federal building in protest against the Iraq war. Untypical behavior for an Alabaman, perhaps, but new Bay Area arrivals often feel compelled to remove the bushels from their lamps and let their lights shine, whatever the consequences. Marc Andrus has a long way to go before he shocks this flock. Northern California Bishop James Pike set the standard over 40 years ago:
[Pike's] episcopate was marked by both professional and personal controversy. He was involved with introducing the ordained ministry of women into the Episcopal Church, a living wage for workers in San Francisco, the acceptance of LBGT [Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Gay, Transgendered] people in the church, and civil rights. Among his notable accomplishments, Pike marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Selma, Alabama. His theology was profoundly challenging to the Church, as Pike wrote condemning a number of widely regarded theological stances, including the virginity of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the doctrine of the Trinity. He was censured by his brother bishops in 1966 for this and resigned his position shortly thereafter.It’s a sign of how much the Church has changed that many of Bishop Pike’s views are considered mainstream by the American Episcopal Church . But enough of bishops and their obsessions.
Joseph, Mary, and the pony marched down the aisle to take their place at the altar. Cameras snapped, rolled, and flashed. I sang the familiar carols, only stumbling over the grating insertion of PC-pronouns into centuries-old lyrics (Hark the Herald: "born that we [men] no more may die"; Joy to the World: "let us our [men their] songs employ"). Yuck, the goddess of inclusion has a tin ear. But enough about me and my obsessions.
In the feast of the Nativity Christians put aside their divisions over human sexuality, the use and misuse of language, the role of women, the role of the Church, and the triune nature of God. We gather to celebrate the day without which none of these arguments would matter, the day when the Word became flesh and everything changed. In this Christmas season, may you experience love, joy, and peace with your families and friends. © 2006 Stephen Yuen