Last week I let politics override faith as I laughed at the uproar over MegynAishaGate (trademarked!). If you remember, Aisha Harris wrote a post in Slate arguing we should replace Santa with a penguin because a white Santa alienated her as a child. Megyn Kelly, Fox News host, argued that discomfort with social messages doesn’t mean it should change, effectively dismantling Thurgood Marshall’s arguments in Brown v. Board of Education. Kelly provoked backlash over her comment that Santa just is white, just like Jesus just is white, a verifiable fact according to her. A day or so later she explained MegynAishaGate was a tongue in cheek discussion in the media, and anyone who took it seriously was targeting Fox for race-baiting. Personally, I can’t wait for the comedy tour because this duo is hilarious.
Lost in the fog of media is the incarnational power of Jesus that we celebrate at Christmas. Jesus is God made flesh like us. The ineffable, eternal, boundless, all-powerful God left heaven behind. He poured out all of himself, constraining it to a single body, mortal, limited, weak, dependent child who was born outside, under threat of death, to poor parents, in a feeding trough. Christmas is not so much about the celebration of God’s gift to mankind, but our grasping to understand and live out the powerful mystery of God made flesh.
God made flesh changes everything. Jesus held down a job, commuted to work, had family pressures, friends he would hang out with… Jesus cried. Jesus got angry, hungry, maybe even hangry. Jesus got frustrated. Jesus was amazed. Jesus was afraid. In short, Jesus was a person just like us and understands each of us, what we struggle with, fear, worry about, crave, and need. Jesus’ understanding of us is what enables him to be our Savior. Without the Incarnation, there is no salvation, and Christianity is meaningless.
What do I mean by that? Aisha’s criticism of a white Santa originated in frustration over an American culture that prizes ‘White’ and shuns, shames, or even hates what is not ‘White’. Put simply, it’s the zeitgeist that says you must look, think, act and be this way to be not only accepted, but to be good. Pivoting to the white Jesus comment, the problem is not just an error in historicity, but it violates the very point of Jesus’ incarnation.
For centuries, a ‘white Jesus’ was used to promote white hegemony and drove many non-whites away from the faith. Jesus became a tool and symbol of alienation and oppression, instead of the liberator and friend that he truly is. The Bible doesn’t speak of Jesus’ color or appearance because, as Paul emphatically says, in Him there is no Jew, Greek, man, woman, slave or free man. All are one in Him.
I know what it means to live behind the veil, as DuBois called it, that veil that keeps the things of this world seen but not accessible to you because of your color, that says you’re not truly accepted because you’re not white. Praise be to Jesus that he ripped the veil in two, and out of two different people, made one that he could call his own.
The backdrop to this, admittedly not very funny, MegynAishaGate is evidence the world celebrates but doesn’t understand Christmas. I don’t really expect them to. What I do expect is that believers understand and proclaim from the rooftops the power of the incarnation, and how it unites us with Jesus and with one another. Without Jesus in the flesh, incarnated, put to death, and resurrected, our faith loses all power and meaning. May we never forget what the real meaning of Christmas is.