The Advent story begins in obscurity and ends in darkness. It begins in a forgotten town in a conquered kingdom with an unknown teenage girl, and it ends in a lonely, unhygienic birth, in the dead of night, in a city far from home. These are the places God chooses to work. When we read the account of these events 2000+ years later, they may sound like an adventure, or an epic tale but they were anything but romantic at the time. They were dirty and small and unassuming. The audience God gathered to the birth of his son was made of up of shepherds—people ostracised from society by their profession, and usually for other reasons as well. All the main players in God's earth-changing arrival are outcasts and nobodies.
God doesn't care for celebrity. There were plenty of 'good' choices of family for him to be born into in his day, just as there are now. But God loves the margins and the people who are pushed out into them, and that is where God's greatest stories tend to begin.
God sees our loneliness, our lack of social capital, our struggle to be seen or feel valid—and God wants to begin stories of hope, world-changing events, from there. The nothing we have to offer God is always more than enough for what God has in mind.
This Advent—at the end of a difficult and draining year—we are all feeling lonely and small and powerless. Our social narrative likes to gloss over these feelings—to tell us that we can out-think them, stay positive and escape—but they are very real experiences. Today, as we wait for the coming light of God, let's take stock of our nothings, of our struggles and our lack, of our feelings of outcast-ness and disenfranchisement—and let's offer them to God. Because God needs nothing more from us than the nothing that we have. God weaves greatness out of our small and struggling selves. God speaks into our darkness and calls for the light. Let's be part of that story.
Image: The Holy Family by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1910