Advent is about waiting and wandering. In the story, people are on the move, going somewhere different, being outsiders. I mean, can you imagine willingly traveling if you are about to deliver a baby, unless you had to? The last place you'd want to be is away from home and the familiar.
Are they the other, these travelers, or are they us? Will they be find a welcome? Or will they be in danger? It's very elemental stuff.
Humans are social animals, and often tribal at that. We reject The Other: whether it is the crazy homeless person on the street, or the people who look different, sound different than we do. Rick Perry claiming tribal identity as an anti-gay Christian is just a particularly ugly streak of this. YOU aren't like ME, he says, which means YOU aren't really American. Never mind that Americans were originally outcasts who left where they were because they were different.
This has its roots in childhood, of course--you remember the unpopular kids? The ones marginalized for being different? That was me. I was terminally unpopular--too bookish, sensitive, no good at sports, and not interested in the prattle of my peers. In high school,I was the only girl in the computer programming classes, I was klutzy, and I didn't like boys like that.. So I embraced being different like a badge of honor.
As I grew up, I continued being on the outside, being different. I discovered science and almost lived in the lab, yet I had a literature degree. I never made friends very easily; too quirky and independent. I lived overseas for a number of years, where my accent immediately identified me as The Other. And when I returned to the US, I discovered that once an expatriate, always an outsider, and never truly at home. On the other hand, I realized that my living abroad had given me a unique viewpoint and objectivity about my own country. I could see things clearly having seen them from a distance.
In any case, I continue to live on the margins, always looking in. I believe that this gives me potential for unique insight. But it can also be lonely. The closest I get to belonging is with my beloved wife, through whom I find community and friends. But at some level, I don't really belong there either.
What's the definition of "normal"? If you are a Christian in a group of non-believers, are you the standard and the atheists the outsiders? Or the atheist in a group of Christians? Does the outsider offer you anything worth knowing? ANd are they worth bringing in?