Most people wouldn’t go to the beach during a hurricane, but I’m from Indiana. What do I know about hurricanes? My wife and I were on our way home from Disney about five years ago when we decided to make a detour and check out the beach in Destin. We’d had friends who had vacationed there for years and were always raving about it. So, we thought while we were in Florida we might as well stop by for a couple of days.
Yes, the Weather Channel had been droning on all week about some tropical storm down in the Caribbean. And yes, they had just upgraded it to a hurricane. And yes, it was supposed to hit the Gulf coast. But c’mon, it was like three days away. Surely we could get in a little fun in the sun, right?
We pulled in to Destin around dinner, settled in for a fantastic night’s sleep and woke up bright and early to hit the beach. I couldn’t believe it. It was the middle of July, and we had the place to ourselves. I’d always fanaticized about what it might be like to have my own private beach. Guess Florida beaches weren’t nearly as busy as I’d always heard.
Or, in hindsight, maybe it was vacant because everyone was running for their lives.
When we got back to our room that evening, we noticed the red light flashing on our hotel phone. It turned out to be a message from the front desk. The government had ordered everyone evacuated by 6:00 A.M. the next morning.
Ridiculous, I thought. The hurricane’s still a good day away. How long could it possibly take to empty out the entire Florida panhandle? We have plenty of time. My wife, however, is something of an alarmist and thought maybe we should go ahead and hit the road. By the way, did I mention she was five months pregnant?
Apparently, hurricane evacuations are kind of a big deal. Destin sits on a peninsula, and the only way out of there is to cross one of two or three bridges. Not a problem unless the government has ordered an evacuation, and you have a killer hurricane breathing down your neck.
We sat in gridlock that would put Congress to shame. It took us three hours just to get across the bridge. Then we waited some more. It didn’t take long to discover that the only person who has to go the bathroom more frequently than a pregnant wife is a guy who drinks gallons of Diet Mt. Dew. Did I mention my wife was pregnant? Did I mention I drink Diet Mt. Dew? But we were stuck. No place to go, no place to stop. By one in the morning, were still trying to get across the Florida line.
At some point I realized we needed a find a room where we could crash once we’d cleared the hurricane zone. We started calling hotels on my cell phone, but of course, all of them were full. I thought the farther away we got from the beach, the better our chances, but a wave of refugees had a head start on us, filling every possible bed between the ocean and the Great Lakes.
Every bed, except for one. I finally managed to find some decrepit roadside inn on a back road in Alabama. Fortunately the drug dealers and escaped convicts who usually stay there were evacuating too so they had plenty of vacancies. But, then again, so does the Bates Motel.
When we got to our luxurious suite and removed the police tape blocking the door, Christy took one look inside and said, “I am not sleeping in there.” She was ready to take her chances with the hurricane.
Hmm, pregnant wife, long journey, no place to stay. It was beginning to sound a lot like Christmas. I don’t how Mary reacted when Joseph told her they would be sleeping in a barn, but I’m sure it didn’t exactly seem like an accommodation fit for a king. But Jesus was no ordinary king.
Couldn’t He have picked any birthplace He wanted? Couldn’t He have chosen to be born in a palace surrounded by the greatest human comforts imaginable? Of course, He could have, but I think He chose humble beginnings because they would set the stage for the humble life He would go on to lead and the humble death He would go on to die.
The Bible says that God the Son, a being who could play kickball with comets, took on the nature of a servant and made himself nothing. He did not come to be served but to serve others to the point of giving up everything for us, including His life. This kind of humble servanthood is a potent reminder at Christmas that life doesn’t have to be about me and my comfort. In fact, it isn’t about me at all.
On the night of the evacuation, Christy and I passed up our humble hotel and kept driving until we landed in a comfy bed in Nashville. On that first Christmas, however, Mary and Joseph stopped in a stable, and the Creator King drew His first breath from air filled with the stench of manure and barnyard beasts. Royal trappings? Not exactly. It was, though, about right for a God who came to be one of us.