And They Laid Him in a Manger, Somewhere Out By John Wayne Airport12/12/2007
By Becky Garrison
When Robert Schuller, Inc., stages The Glory of Christmas, 228 seats have to be removed from the 2,736-seat Crystal Cathedral sanctuary to accommodate the Broadway-style set, which takes a month to prepare, partly because of the "angel track installation." That's right, angel tracks. That would be for the benefit of the eight angels that can go as high as 80 feet and travel as fast as 25 miles per hour. Then there are the three adult camels, the one baby camel, six horses, a yak, a llama, a baby water buffalo, and untold numbers of sheep and goats on stage along with the 300 volunteer ushers and "actors."
Glory of Christmas display
The Holy Family
(And yes, we're using that term loosely.) The whole thing is staged to the accompaniment of the London Symphony Orchestra well, a recording of the London Symphony Orchestra, resulting in what would best be described as a combination Joel Osteen/Andrew Lloyd Weber/Branson, Missouri spectacle of the first two chapters of Luke as they would have been envisioned by Aimee Semple Macpherson if she'd known about special effects.
They've been doing this show faithfully since 1981 one year after Schuller dedicated his glass-and-steel mega-office-complex and this year they ignored my connection to The Wittenburg Door and forked over tickets for five members of my family including my 16-year-old nephew, who assured me that, no matter how you swivel your neck, there's no way you can get a good look up the heavenly skirts of those flying angels, and my 14-year-old niece, who said the highlight for her was when the Roman soldier's horse relieved himself on the stage. My nephew added that it would have been better if they got the lead singer from Deth Klock to play Jesus, but we can't have everything.
Since I’ve actually been to Bethlehem, I have photos proving that the place where Jesus was allegedly born aren't actually painted Barney-the-Dinosaur purple, but let's not tell anyone in Orange County, all right? It would spoil their obvious delight in this long-running hit. In fact, a sing-along sensibility permeated the Schuller Sanctuary. As I was walking towards the theater, I passed the In-Car Worship Center; a Christmas tree that could rival the one at Rockefeller Center; a spirit-filled gift shop that sold all things Crystal, and of course life-sized statues of major biblical figures including Moses, the holy family on donkeys, and Jesus walking on water.
I didn’t share my atheist family’s assessment that the entire show was godawful, but I can't say I was touched by it either, despite the comforting sound of Robert Schuller's recorded voice assuring me that “God loves you and so do I.” And speaking of impersonal, I can't help but point out that this is one of the few churches that, at Christmas-time, doesn't have some kind of a food donation box, Christmas tree full of mittens or some other means of donating to the less fortunate.
But then again, maybe that's because the show itself is what the needy need. According to the Crystal Cathedral website, “interested donors can “give the gift of The Glory of Christmas to a needy child or organization this season. The Glory of Christmas and its beautiful message of life, peace, joy and love reflects the true meaning of the holiday. Your help is needed in our mission to share and celebrate with all, the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Each season we have been blessed with the ability to donate thousands of complimentary tickets (range in price from $20.00 to $55.00) to children's charities and non-profit organizations throughout Orange County. As the production costs increased, the Crystal Cathedral established the Angel Fund to enable this vital outreach to continue.”
And lest anyone miss out on basking in The Glory of Christmas, it's just three short months until The Crystal Cathedral also resurrects The Glory of Easter.
I'm just guessing that they focus on Day One and don't forget those angel tracks an awesome Day Three.