How we get the news is less important than the message

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 25, 2013

“I was visiting my daughter last night when I asked if I could borrow a newspaper.
“ ‘This is the 21st century,’ she said. ‘We don’t waste money on newspapers. Here, use my iPad.’
“I can tell you this. That fly never knew what hit him.”

No “Merry Christmas” message came attached to the email quoted above, but it made me smile — and that’s as good as a gift.
I find myself reading news on the computer, iPad, smart phone as well as in print — not to mention listening to radio and TV. Like you, probably, I have learned each form has its strengths and conveniences.
That realization also has been a gift of sorts. A few years ago people were predicting the demise of newspapers, supposedly destined for extinction. But — surprise — newspapers grew into something more than ink on paper, now spreading the news via Internet, mobile devices, social media and more.
Each year seems to bring new forms.
If print does fade out — and I have my doubts about that — we’ll have plenty of other ways to deliver information to readers.
And fly swatters will make a comeback.

Like the aforementioned joke teller, I also visited a daughter recently. Our two other daughters and I descended upon Mary’s New York apartment to celebrate her 30th birthday. It was a whirlwind weekend, made all the whirlier by a snowstorm with warnings of gale-force winds.
That kind of weather would put Rowan County in virtual lock down, but life went on as usual in New York City. People just put on more layers and stepped gingerly along icy, slushy sidewalks.
Nor did the snowstorm stop Santacon, the yuletide tradition of donning Santa costumes to roam in packs and crowd into bars. Am I the only person who didn’t know about this? I was surprised to see so many red-suited Santas trekking around town in groups, with a few reindeer and elves sprinkled among their number. But to blasé New Yorkers this was routine stuff — so yesterday. Mary said the revelers seemed fewer this year, but we weren’t frequenting the same spots.

The Santas’ suits were red, but their skin came in all colors, by the way. Santa’s ethnicity became an issue recently when a Slate column declared “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore,” and Fox News commentator Megyn Kelly responded by declaring to child viewers (say what?) that Santa is and has always been white.
Black, brown or white — does the color of Santa’s skin really matter? Most of us would say race seems like a non-issue where Santa is concerned. But if we quickly dismiss the question we miss the point.
If you’re white, try this assignment. Find a storybook or Christmas card for a black child. It could be an eye-opening experience. Where are the cards and books with which this child can identify?
Our white assumptions give “color blind” new meaning.

Kelly was emphatic on another point.
“Jesus was a white man, too,” she said. “It’s like we have, he’s a historical figure. That’s a verifiable fact, as is Santa. I just want kids to know that.”
Putting “verifiable fact” and “Santa” in the same sentence may be unwise. But it’s Kelly’s characterization of Jesus that set Biblical scholars abuzz.
European and American culture have always depicted Jesus as white, even though he was a Jew from the Middle East and likely brown-skinned. But the Bible never describes Jesus’ physical appearance, a fact that scholars say has served Christianity well. Jesus has broad appeal across all ethnicities as one who can bridge racial divides. To Megyn Kelly, Jesus is white. To you, he is your color.
Regardless of the historical Jesus’ ethnicity, the savior we celebrate today is personal — filling the unique, God-shaped hole in the heart of every follower.
News of his birth and life spread by word of mouth and scroll, at first, and now via Twitter, Facebook and the world wide web. The “how” of spreading his message is less important than the message itself. Isn’t that always the case?
Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.