- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The bishop who gave a sermon during Christmas Eve services attended by President Trump and Vice President Pence drew parallels between Jesus Christ’s birth story and the migrant issues the U.S. faces today.

“You only have to read the first sentence of the story to know that there are deep social implications to it, should we place ourselves in this story,” Mariann Edgar Budde, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, told parishioners Monday night at the Washington National Cathedral.

“It begins with an emperor who could move people about at will,” she said. “And so two people forced to obey the emperor’s edict set out on a long journey on the last month of the young woman’s pregnancy. And they were denied a place of comfort in her greatest hour of need. And it wouldn’t be long before they would be forced to flee again, this time to find refuge from violence in another country. It’s right there. It’s in the text. It’s in the story.”

Ms. Budde told The Washington Post that she gave the same sermon during to the 6 p.m. service attended by Mike and Karen Pence and the 10 p.m. service attended by the president and first lady Melania Trump. The two families were in Washington over Christmas due to a partial federal government shutdown spurred by the president’s demands for border-wall funding.

Ms. Budde told NPR she wasn’t looking for a reaction from the president when she delivered her sermon, but that the comparisons between the nativity story and modern day are “unmistakable.”

“As the story goes, were forced by an emperor’s decree to move from one place to another, which is why she gave birth in Bethlehem,” she said. “And shortly after his birth, as the story’s told, they had to flee the fear of violence and find refuge in another country.

“So the text could not be more clear that the priorities of God are with us all when we are in those places of greatest hardship and need and that as Christians, as followers of Jesus, as one of our great mantras of the church says, in the name of these refugees, we are to help all refugees,” she continued. “I didn’t explicitly mention any of the immigrant crises that are facing us, although I was just at the U.S.-Mexican border a few days ago and can’t get those images out of my mind. But I didn’t have to. It was the text that called that to us, and I simply touched upon it pretty lightly, actually, at the end of the sermon. But it’s an unmistakable part of the story.”

Ms. Budde said she didn’t write the sermon specifically for the Trump administration and asserted that she thinks it’s “dangerous” to push an “agenda-laden message.”

“I hope he heard what I wanted everyone to hear,” she said. “I don’t think I changed his mind on the issues about which he and I would disagree because most of us come into a sermon or any other encounter with our biases fully in place. But one never knows. I hope that all of us — I mean, it wasn’t just for the president. It’s for all of us. I mean, we have a responsibility. And we have infinite ways that we can respond. And so that’s what I hope he and everyone heard.”

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