We are pointed in the general direction of the 7am American Airlines commuter out of Harrisburg, headed to Chicago this very early morning where, if all goes according to plan, we should connect to San Francisco and a week-long visit with our daughters up in wine country. This is the first Christmas in my memory not spent at home (or at Audrey’s mother’s in Maine) and it feels strange and wrong to be standing in a security line waiting to get probed. We’re working on less than four hours of sleep having collapsed around midnight after three Christmas Eve services at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. I am travel-anxious, grumpy, disoriented and, at this point, impossible to please. I expect the gate agents all to be wearing Santa hats and exuding special holiday cheer as if preparing for a pageant but they are simply sleepy and businesslike. Likewise the security folks are their usual dour, no-nonsense selves repeating their useless blue-gloved pantomime of protecting us from evildoers. They look alternately bored, aggressive and deeply sad. I should feel sorry for them but I don’t because they are about to judge me and confiscate my toothpaste and I am actually getting angry standing in my socks with my belt in my hand like a prisoner about to trade in his street-clothes for stripes. But then Audrey and I are each handed a laminated card for “expedited” boarding and are whisked through the metal detector on a gust of white privilege leaving other darker, shoeless travelers to the vagaries of the x-ray machine. I’m now annoyed that, in my paunchy middle age, I’ve been deemed un-dangerous and I squelch an alarming instinct to start a fistfight just to prove them wrong. But, of course, they are dead right. And just doing their jobs. I remind myself for the umpteenth time that I should strive to be much more compassionate and a nicer guy generally and that I am married to the Episcopal Bishop of Central Pennsylvania and if anybody knew how reliably and relentlessly pessimistic I really am just how much harder that would make her job. It doesn’t help. I need a distraction and I need to calm the hell down and suddenly, out of nowhere, this Christmas morning I am diverted by the oddest thought. What would it be like if Jesus worked for Homeland Security?
If Jesus were a TSA agent, he’d confiscate that 1911 Colt .45 automatic you forgot was hiding in the side pocket of your carry-on bag and he’d give you a sour look. But he’d let you keep your grandfather’s pocket knife and your nail clippers. He’d pretend not to notice the joint you forgot was at the bottom of your purse and which you will be delighted to find on excruciating day three of your visit to in-laws. He’d know you swapped out the contents of your miniature shampoo bottle for bourbon because the thought of spending nine bucks on a drink in the airport makes you homicidal and he’d simply whisper a warning not to mix it with the Valium you’ve been hoarding for this trip. He’d know you were going to visit your sick mother – maybe for the last time – and he’d give you a little card which would tell you exactly what to say to her. He’d unblock your two-year-old’s sinuses so the cabin pressure wouldn’t make her cry and he’d change your perfume so that it would remind your next random seat-mate of his favorite elementary school teacher fifty-seven years ago. Jesus would tell you to be patient with the crabby flight attendant in coach because her shoes irritate her corns, tell you to pass on the airplane food, slip you a meal voucher and command you to order the house special pizza at Wolfgang Puck’s in the O’Hare terminal because it is surprisingly good and you deserve it. Most of all he’d tell you to relax, try to enjoy the journey and to forgive all, not just some of the trespasses. And he’d smile and look you right in the eye and wish you Happy Holidays because, as he’d be the first to admit, it’s not all about him.
I feel better already. Merry Christmas.