DECEMBER 12, 2005

Pastor George Van Alstine

The important relationships in our lives are not static or totally predictable. They are organic interactions between individuals, each of whom is constantly changing and evolving. Therefore, they can’t be taken for granted, but need constant re-evaluation, adjustment and nurturing. Christmas is a great time to take a fresh look at our relationships and make necessary changes.

Think of how radically relationships changed within the Holy Family that first Christmas.

Joseph was a man of honor. He believed it was time to marry, and he went about it in the right way. A marriage was arranged between his family and another respected family whose teenaged daughter Mary would likely become a good match with Joseph. We don’t know how well he knew Mary before their engagement, but their interactions were certainly formal and restrained. Now, all of a sudden, his predictable world was turned upside down. His young bride was pregnant!

Joseph had every right to call the deal off. Because he was sensitive to her dilemma and the social stigma she could expect, he decided that he would “dismiss her quietlyâ€? to save her from “public disgraceâ€? (Matthew 1:19).

But God had other plans, and he sent an angel to tell Joseph that he was to go ahead with the marriage even though she was pregnant. This meant that Joseph would be the one facing “public disgrace.â€? Joseph obeyed the Lord and he “took her as his wifeâ€? (vs.24). We have a clear impression that he showed great tenderness and support for Mary during the months remaining before Jesus’ birth. Joseph had to find a new way of relating to Mary, and, by God’s grace, he did.

Mary found all her relationships dramatically change by the realization she was pregnant before her marriage. In her society, she could expect anger from her family and scorn from the entire community. One day a young innocent girl, the next a fallen woman destined for a life as a second-class citizen.

And this man Joseph, who had selected her with the help of their families, who had trusted his future to her by becoming engaged to marry—he would now see her as his betrayer. She could expect to pay for this throughout the years of their marriage.

But God gave Joseph a different spirit. Instead of judging her harshly, he believed in her innocence and fully supported her in bringing her Baby into the world. This man whom she had hardly known before was now her best friend! She knew they would go through thick and thin together.

And then the Baby came. A new Person entered into the family network of relationships. Many of us know from our own experience how a baby can change the dynamics of a marriage. Husband and wife see each other in a new light. Their needs have changed, as well as their priorities.

The Baby bonded with Mary first. It was in an animal barn on a bed of straw that they first looked into each other’s eyes. What a long, mysterious, intense, often wrenching drama lay ahead for Mary. Her relationship with her son would change many times over the next thirty-three years, as the son of Mary proved also to be the Son of God.


All of us are in relationships with family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers, and every one of them has changed since last Christmas. In some cases, we may be feeling isolated from someone with whom we used to feel comfortably intimate. Or we may have wronged someone by word or deed; or have been wronged.

Christmas is the best time to express that long-needed word of apology, or forgiveness, or assurance, or love. This may be the key that opens the door to a new, more profound chapter in your relationship.

Reach out to those around you this Christmas, and be ready for a revival in your relationships.