Day 15 – Marginal Characters

Written by Brian Johnson

Last Sunday in worship we told the story of Zechariah (from Luke 1:5-25). It always seems strange to me that Luke starts Gospel (a story about the life of Jesus) not with Jesus or one of his close relations, but with Zechariah – who was the guy married to Jesus’s mother’s cousin. This doesn’t seem, at least at first glance, to be someone whose life should have any impact on the life of Jesus. But, the Gospel of Luke tells us that it does. In fact, as we pay attention to Zechariah’s story, we see all sorts of parallels to the story of the birth of Jesus – angels announcing miraculous births, parents struggling to believe, God working among the least likely people. We see all sorts of themes beginning to emerge here in Zechariah’s story – themes that will carry through the whole Gospel of Luke. And it turns out that Zechariah, and especially his wife Elizabeth, do have a big impact on the story of Jesus – particularly through their interactions with Jesus‘s mother, Mary, and through their son, John the Baptist, who grows up to be a prophet who leads people to Jesus. These seemingly marginal characters actually make a real difference in God’s story of love and salvation for the whole world.

There are all sorts of seemingly marginal characters in our lives. Family members who we rarely see. People with whom we interact at the bus stop or the store but whose names we don’t even know. Folks who are working behind the scenes, who we never even see but whose work impacts our lives – the people who prepare or grow our food, the people who built our homes, the people who clean the classrooms where our kids learn, other Christians around the world who we will never meet but who pray with us every Sunday for peace, love, justice, and God’s kingdom.

And, of course, we are marginal characters in other people’s lives to. For someone else, you are that nameless person who they bump into at the store, or who they see in traffic. And the story of Zechariah is a reminder that these marginal characters matter immensely. There are people who impact our lives profoundly who we will never know. And we have the chance to make a significant impact on the lives of others who will never learn our names. We have the chance to spread love to people who we will see for only a second or two this holiday season. So, today, I invite you to give thanks for the marginal characters in your life – the people who you don’t know but who make all the difference. And I invite you to attempt to make a positive difference in the lives of others, including those who you don’t know well at all. God has given us a vast web of relationships, and even the ones that we don’t usually notice can really make a difference. May you make a difference of love and share God’s light with someone who you barely know today and during this season.


If you’ve missed any of our previous daily readings, you can find them all archived here. We hope these readings are helping you encounter God this season!

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