Christmas Eve at Bethlehem International

In which Joseph, Mary, and Jesus face holiday air travel

Christmas story: 2010 version
Scene: The Bethlehem International Airport.

TSA agent: Next, please.

Joseph: You go first, honey. I’ll hold Jesus.

Mary steps forward. Joseph turns to continue a conversation with a man in line behind him.

Joseph: We finally get there and the girl at the desk is all, “Sorry, there’s no record of your reservation.” And I’m like, “Then I guess I just invented this confirmation number, right?” So that’s the last time we use Travelocity. We ended up having to spend the night in an old hovel with just a terrible animal smell.

Traveller: I think I’ve stayed at that Holiday Inn.

Agent [to Joseph]: Come forward, please.

Balancing baby Jesus in one arm, Joseph removes his sandals, headdress and outer tunic.

Joseph: How are you today?

Agent: I need your boarding papyrus.

The agent begins working his way up Joseph’s legs.

Joseph: Is this really necessary? I mean, when’s the last time we had any security threats in the Middle East?

From behind Joseph comes a voice.

Screener: Sir, is this your myrrh?

Joseph: What?

Screener: Sir, any quantity of myrrh over and above three bekahs is prohibited beyond this checkpoint. This has to go as checked baggage.

Joseph: I can’t just leave now and—

With the agent’s hands on his thighs and Jesus still in his arms, Joseph strains to look past the checkpoint and find Mary. He sees her in the distance, 18th in line at Sbarro.

Joseph: Look, just throw away the myrrh, okay? We’re pretty flush with aromatic resins right now.

The screener slips the myrrh into a pocket of his cloak.

Screener: Now, please place your donkey on the conveyer belt.

Meanwhile, the agent’s hands move higher. He grabs hold of something, stops and looks up.

Joseph: That’s my coin purse.

The agent’s hands move slightly.

Joseph: And those are not.

Sounds of a scuffle. A police officer hollers from across the checkpoint.

Officer: Sir, are these shepherds with you?

Joseph [turning]: What? No. I mean, I guess you could say they’re following the boy, so . . .

A flustered Joseph turns back. The shepherds are forced up against a wall, handcuffed and charged with stalking.

A small boy with a beatific grin approaches. His gaze is locked on Jesus. As the agent rubs his hands along Joseph’s backside, and as the screener runs the braying donkey back and forth through the X-ray machine, the boy takes out a small drum and begins to play: Tum-tiddly-tum-tum. Over and over it goes. Tum-tiddly-tum-tum Tum-tiddly-tum-tum Tum-tiddly-tum-t—


The agent begins poking gently at Jesus.

Joseph [eyes narrowing]: What now?

Agent: It’s these clothes, sir. They’re extremely swaddling.

Joseph: They’re clothes for a baby. They’re meant to swaddle. It’s not like there’s a slingshot hidden inside his—

Agent [into walkie-talkie]: Code Alpha! Backup to the checkpoint!

Joseph: I said not a slingshot. NOT A SLING­SHOT!

Six hours later.

Agent: Sorry for the delay, sir. These days we need to take every precaution. And may I just say that your son was remarkably serene through it all.

Joseph: Oh, he’s not my son. I mean, technically he’s my son, but I’m not the guy who actually—

Agent [removing Taser from holster]: Code Alpha!

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