“The margins are never margins for God.”
Just had to share these brilliant words from Elaine Storkey. This was originally from a podcast (linked below), but I have typed out the transcript.
Most societies have a strong sense of a center. It’s occupied by people with influence, visibility, status, and power. In most societies, those at the center are influential folk: decision-makers, experts, inventors; well-educated people with freedom to think and experiment. We know a lot about them.
They feature in the media, are on rich lists, they’ve got important jobs, they make key decisions that affect the rest of us; they’ve got authority, insight, control; they usually run the country. The rest of us hope that they’re people of integrity and wisdom, who will run the country wisely and well.
Most societies also have people on the margins. We can tell who they are straight away if we visit a heavily indebted, poor country. They’re the ones who must live off less than two dollars a day. They’re the ones who are most affected by climate change, drought, famines, malnutrition. They’re the ones who suffer from a wealth of diseases, and whose children die very early in life. They’re people who wear thread-back clothes, have little education, poor access to fresh water, are vulnerable to epidemics and natural disasters, and whose life expectancy is very short.
But affluent countries also have people on the margins. They’re those with little power or influence; no real say in the key decisions that affect their livelihood. In our country (UK), they’re often people with disabilities, poor health, or long-term illness. They can also be unemployed, the elderly, children, newborn babies, or single parents. The lives of those on the margins are greatly affected by the decisions made by people who are a long way from the margins and very often don’t know much about them.
People on the margins don’t usually cut much ice. Which is why it’s fascinating that the Nativity story focuses on these people, rather than those in the center. Sure, King Herod makes an appearance; but doesn’t get a very good press. The Roman governor gets a mention too. He’s clearly on the make because he wants to raise taxes and wants to take a census. But he only get’s a one-liner.
Mary and Joseph and the coming baby is what the story is all about. Really marginalized people. They’re part of the big itinerant crowd of folk who have no choice but to make an arduous journey to travel back to where they came from – whatever the condition they’re in – and to be counted so that they can be taxed. Yet the nativity is their story. They’re visited by angels who give them instructions from God. The pregnancy we know all about, as well as Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth. Their ordinary lives become the center of the greatest story of all times. They baby – vulnerable, defenseless, born in a cow-shed, and laid in a feeding trough, will become a socially-marginalized man, who, in his own words, has nowhere to lay his head. Yet, he will draw billions of people throughout history and across the world to faith in God. And through his death – his unjust death – [he] will bring salvation and hope for all of humanity.
The margins are never margins for God.
The margins are never margins for God. And the Nativity helps us to see how God’s values challenge everyone; especially those of us who might feel we’re somewhere near the center. God invites us to step back and see a much bigger picture. And see the world as He loves it.
–Elaine Storkey, “At the Margins,” Nomad Podcast 12-22-17
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