Third Friday of Advent: From Nothing

By Drew Elling

Advent Devotional | December 17, 2021

Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

—Isaiah 7:13-14 (Read Isaiah 7)

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

—Matthew 1:22-23 (Read Matthew 1)

Something from nothing.

There is no greater feeling than when our nothings becoming somethings again. Something from nothing. It’s the joy of the unexpected, the unbelievable, the inexplicable.

The Christmas miracle, in a nutshell, is something from nothing. Where there was once no hope at all came the greatest Hope of all.

From a womb where nothing could possibly come, came the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and the salvation of the world. From nothing, God came and dwelt among us. Now that’s something!

For me and my family, this past year has been a miracle birth of sorts too.

Thirty years after I walked away from a three-year commitment to a job I loved, God led me back to a calling I thought I had left behind.

Way back in 1988, I was a “closet Christian,” looking for a way out into the world but having no idea how to start. I was invited into the fellowship and worship of the faith for the first time by Kristin, a CCO staffer at Westminster College. I had hardly ever attended worship in a church before, but Kristin patiently shepherded me into the day-to-day life of a local congregation.

Along with the other CCO staff on campus, Kristin invited me into Bible studies and service opportunities where I could grow in knowledge and learn to live my faith out loud. My passion for ministry was shaped by Kristin and the ministry of the CCO. So I joined the CCO myself in 1993 at Westminster College in partnership with New Wilmington Presbyterian Church. I was living my dream!

And then a struggling marriage and other life circumstances forced me to walk away from my first ministry love.

I felt guilty and lost. My wife, Jennifer, and I needed a fresh start, so we left the CCO and went to seminary at Gordon-Conwell. I planned to return to campus ministry after seminary, but God had other plans.

For the next 22 years, I served as a pastor in churches in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Georgia. But the passion for reaching young people was always present, and as I sensed God pushing me into a new chapter this past year, a "light bulb" went off over my head.

What about the CCO?

I talked with Jennifer about it and, to my surprise, God had given her the same idea that very day. Needless to say, we knew God was up to something!

Then we found out that our son, Jackson, had also applied to the CCO.

After picking myself up off the floor, it became crystal clear that God’s plan for our future was being realized.

From nothing, God was bringing something. Again.

Since creation, God continues to show us that He loves making something out of nothing. He’s been at it a long time: the stars, galaxies, the Grand Canyon, the baby Moses floating in a basket, Joseph sold into slavery, the Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel, the Israelites wandering in the desert. Mary’s miracle baby who grows up and is nailed to a cross. As if he were nothing.

But from that “nothing” came everything.

What is your nothing today? God loves turning nothings into somethings. Give your nothing to Him today in faith. Pray that your relationships, your sense of purpose, and your walk with the Lord will be transformed. And maybe the miracle birth this Christmas will be in you.

Wouldn’t that be something?

—Drew Elling serves the CCO as campus ministry staff through his role as Pastor for Campus Ministries and The Fellows Initiative in Satellite Beach, Florida. He recently returned to the CCO after nearly 30 years—his first position was in 1993 at Westminster College in partnership with New Wilmington Presbyterian Church.