The Uncomfortable Truth Facebook Can Teach You About Christmas
Donald Trump is in the news again. He’s said some incendiary things about _________ and _________, and how he wants to _______. (I made this post more timeless by just removing unnecessary details.) It’s all over Facebook, and he just won’t apologize, and his supporters are more inflamed than ever. Some are speculating this is going to sink his popularity, while others wonder why we give him all this attention.
In the meantime, I’m trying to give my attention to Advent.
It feels strange to be on my 28th Christmas on earth and only just now be paying attention to my own faith tradition! Advent is about peace, and about patience. It’s about meditating on the idea of expectancy, and the hope of fulfillment.
Most of all, it’s about the Incarnation. Something I’m only beginning to scratch the surface on. Something I never thought I would discover on Facebook.
Here’s why: Donald Trump is going to show up in my Facebook feed tomorrow. It’s just how these things go–Facebook is designed to show me what I want to see. The content you “like” builds a secret database of your preferences. It doesn’t matter whether you love or hate something–just as long as your reaction is extreme. Gushing over photos of your neighbour’s cat? (Ew.) Guess what’s going to be on your feed tomorrow morning! Feeling angry about what some dentist just did? (Ugh.) Well, that’s going to be ready for you at the top, just to poke your bruises and ruffle your feathers some more.
I’m getting tired of opening an app on my phone, or heading to a blog on some website, and feeling batted around. It seems like I’m in a bumper car arena and I’m the only one with a concussion. No matter where I steer, I’m still on “the internet”, and this is what the internet (currently) seems to be.
I used to feel attracted to these extremes, but now it feels so juvenile. And quite frankly, it’s made me sick of Facebook. It’s why I was so surprised to learn about the mystery most central to my faith in the most unlikely place.
Why We Get Obsessed About A Baby at Christmastime
Here’s the Sunday school version of what the Incarnation means: “God Is With Us”. Christians believe Jesus is God, and He didn’t earn it or have to fight for it. Jesus isn’t God in a human costume–He’s God choosing to be fully human. He scratches the itches he needs to scratch and He feels a bit grumpy when He’s hungry.
He’s truly, and fully, human.
But here’s where the mystery comes in: in a sacred, almost preposterous way, this little baby in a manger represents more than just how God became one of us.
This baby Jesus is how God becomes one with all of us.
Jesus is the God-Man. He’s the place where we become integrated with our Creator.
The Incarnation isn’t just about what Jesus represents, as though God is a cool guy for being willing to wear a skin-suit for 30+ years just to see how hard we have it! The Incarnation is also about what Jesus embodies, in that He is somehow mysteriously linked with every human being throughout all time: how He lives, what He believes, how He dies, and whether He comes back from the dead means everything to how humans know both God and themselves.
Jesus is the truest human.
We can understand who God is, and what He is like, because He has first identified with us. God has never had an empathy problem–He isn’t struggling to relate to you! But in the mystery of the Incarnation, we see the proof that God has united His fate with the fate of humanity.
Whatever happens to us, happens to Him.
He’s ingrained in us that way.
He’s lived through the hell of every war and He’s wept with every widow. He’s felt bullets pierce His skin and He knows the aching loneliness of rejection.
He’s not off in a corner somewhere, checking His phone. He’s fully present in your human experience.
I don’t know how this happened. I don’t even know if I comprehend why! I mean, I suppose whatever would motivate a person to give themselves over to fully present like that would be called “love”, but it’s a more extreme form of love than I can grasp on a good day.
And He is Incarnate to everyone.
Not just Christians. Not just the “good people”. Not once you’ve said or done the right thing to earn His good pleasure. He did this on His own initiative. He sent a fleet of angels to sing about it! It’s what this baby represents. It's what this holiday is all about.
He is fully present in every human life…
…Including Donald Trump.
Here’s the scariest consequence of all this: the person you are offended by, and the person you are afraid of, and the person you want to exclude… they are just as much a part of this mystery as you are. The little baby in the Nativity has as much to do with them as He does with you!
Is there a part of humanity you’re… embarrassed by? Maybe a certain group you wouldn’t want to… associate yourself with?
I see them all the time. On Facebook.
Here’s where the Incarnation confounds me, again and again–the ones I am most tempted to reject are just as included as I am.
Jesus has united Himself with humanity to invite us into His recreation and redemption. He is not the same as us, and His life does not endorse everything our lives do.
But He does not give Himself with conditions.
He loves refugees, and relief workers, and the fearful angry protesters who think all the immigrants are terrorists. He calls the ones we are most likely to despise His brothers and sisters. The Incarnation includes Barack Obama as much as it includes Donald Trump. Jesus, whether you like it or not, is present with abortion doctors and neo-nazis and gay-bashing protestors.
He is “God With Us”, whether we like it or not.
We create the Donald Trump phenomena, by buying exactly what he’s selling. Everything that generates “buzz” or “controversy”, and then leaves our feeds in the blink of an eye, only serves to inflame divisions. We draw lines and divide into tribes and we beat war drums against those who have transgressed our sense of right and wrong.
But the beautiful mystery the Advent season is how God knows we’re wrong–and God steps into our lives anyway.
If you take time, this Advent season, to reflect on this mystery–who knows? Maybe you’ll even have some room in your heart for Donald Trump.
Of course, this is not to say that Trump’s comments are not wrong or ignorant, or that they shouldn’t be opposed especially by every Jesus-follower. Because, you know, Jesus is incarnate to all those Muslims we’re trying to keep out (or shoot with our concealed guns) too.
But we are not permitted, in our disagreement, to pull away from people in judgement. We undo the miracle of the season we celebrate. The mystery of the incarnation welcomes everyone humble enough to see the baby in the manger for who He really is!
Donald Trump has been invited to the manger.
And if he shows up, he isn’t showing up any of that myrrh crap. He’s bringing something huuge, something classy.
There is room for us to kneel at this manger, too.