Friday, 14 December 2007

Even in the belly of the beast...

Yesterday morning I took She-Whom-I-Love, along with the littlest Duck Noodle and her unborn baby brother to the Airport: they're going home to New Zealand for Christmas. I'll be joining them in a few days, but till then it's just me and the dogs... and a whole heap of work I don't think is ever going to get finished.

Even though it's only a three hour flight across the Tasman, because She-Whom-I-Love is 6 1/2 months pregnant it seemed a good idea to cash in the frequent-flyers points and upgrade everyone to the extra leg room of business class. Consequently it was goodbye to the usual economy check-in counters, crammed with Kiwis escaping the Sydney heat, and hello to quiet luxury at the expensive end.

Now I've got to admit; I love airports. Yes I know they're (and least in western countries) crass temples to a uniquely pompous kind of marketing (Is owning a certain type of credit card made from the usual plastic, but named after a precious metal really going to make me more handsome? And are many people actually gullible enough to believe that?) - but I still find them exciting: possibly because (a) I like planes the way some people like cigarettes, and (b) as a first generation child of migrants, the airport was where we went to meet mysterious (and invariably fascinating) relatives visiting from the other side of the world: people who's accents were the same as my parents, and who (unlike everyone else living in what was then a very Anglo suburb) understood and appreciated the funny foods and customs for which us migrant kids more usually faced ridicule.

Yet my love of airports has always sat uncomfortably with my love of Christ. The sheer materialism of endless counters displaying duty-free gee-gaws, and the way I am invariably drawn toward the glistening counters promising far-off luxuries - these do not, I cannot but admit, reconcile easily with my theology. I love airports, but they are Godless places.

So seeing this nativity scene tucked in an obscure corner of the Business/First Class check-in left me startled. The miracle of the incarnation can still capture our attention after all, even in this most deistically sterile of realms.

Sorry about the quality of the picture: I only had my mobile with me and had to be quick. Given the miltarily paranoid times in which we find ourselves, standing around taking pictures of airport infrastructure probably isn't the safest of pastimes - being cavity searched by Neanderthals unimpressed with my explanation that I was just taking pictures for a vaguely religious blog about Duck Noodles was understandably not how I wanted to spent the rest of my day.

Sure, if you could see the display in detail you'd wonder how any Semitic baby could possibly be that fair (ok, so He took after the statue of His mother - but that only raises another question, doesn't it?), nor why the happy parents should have been forced into a manger given they were adorned with more gold than a Chinese jewellery store. Nor did the tableaux convey any trace of the blood, shit and tears which have always accompanied any birth at which I've been present. Nor was there any stink of animal dung and cow piss - it was a manger, after all...

... but I'm sliping into cynicism again, and that's wrong. It was a reminder of the Incarnation, proof that this Wonder beyond all others can't help but invade our world again and again and again and... Ok, so the display was only a few metres square - but stop and think about what floor space in the Business/First class check-in area is worth. Even in the dingy corners like this one. The merchant bank which owns Sydney's international airport expects every square centimetre earns it's keep.

And yet the Birth of our Hope can, albeit in just a small way, still fracture their greedy paradigm. Merry Christmas, everyone. God really has invaded our world.

It's Advent!


Aghaveagh said...

I think what I like best about airports is the excitement of going off Somewhere Else and the anonymity--you could be anyone!

And that was sure thoughtful to do the upgrade

John Bassett said...

Ah, but if you were in the United States the airport would not be a godless place at all.

First of all, you'd be praying that you somehow make it through security in enough time to catch your flight. Then you would be praying that the flight was not delayed for 3 hours while they "serviced" it or came in 17 hours late because it was snowing in Minneapolis (as if it did anything else there). Finally, you would be praying with all your heart that your luggage will it through to your final destination and that the TSA hadn't ripped it apart out of sheer boredom.

No atheists in aviation foxholes, at least here....