Summary: How does the Christmas story remind us about the value of relationships? When relationships get difficult, Jesus brings us together. When we feel isolated, Jesus brings us together. When Jesus brings us together, that is something to be treasured.

December 18 Togetherness Luke 2:1-20

How does the Christmas story remind us about the value of relationships?

1. When relationships get difficult, Jesus brings us together 2:1-5 (on screen)

Matthew 1:18-21

2. When we feel isolated, Jesus brings us together 2:6-15 (on screen)

Biblical community is God’s answer to isolation and loneliness.

3. When Jesus brings us together, that is something to be treasured. 2:16-20

A British medical doctor named Ishani Kar-Purkayastha shared a story about his interaction with Doris, an 82-year-old hospital patient. Two days before Christmas, Doris seemed healthy and ready for discharge. But for some reason she kept complaining about inexplicable health issues. Dr. Kar-Purkayastha wrote: "Yesterday it was her arm that was hurting, before that her hip. Truth is, Doris is an incredibly healthy 82-year-old, and we can't find anything. I have no doubt that it will be the same today."

When the X-rays came back normal, he told Doris that he would have to stick to the plan of sending her home. Doris looked down at the floor and quietly said, "I don't want to go home …. It's just that I'm all alone and there are so many hours in the day." Then after a long pause, she sighed and asked, "Doctor, can you give me a cure for loneliness?"

Dr. Kar-Purkayastha reflected on this incident:

I wish I could say yes. I wish I could prescribe her some antidepressants and be satisfied that I had done my best, but the truth is she's not clinically depressed. It's just that she has been left behind by a world that no longer revolves around her, not even the littlest bit.

There are thousands like her, men and women … for whom time stands empty as they wait in homes full of silence …. They are no longer coveted by a society addicted to youth ….

[Doris] is alone, and it brings home the truth of this epidemic that we have on our hands—an epidemic of loneliness …. The most difficult part is that I don't know how to solve this, although I wish I could. For now, I simply retract my diagnoses. Sheepishly, I insist that Doris spends her Christmas this year on the ward, and I can see her mood lift. But as I steel myself for the inevitable influx of unwanted grandparents whom I know will arrive, I cannot help but wonder how it is that things could have gone so badly wrong.

Turn in your Bibles to Luke 2:1-20. Continue our series on Traditions we must maintain at Christmas if Christmas is going to be to us what God intends it to be. And by the way, He doesn’t give a rip about your decorations and other preparations…

Christmas is a time that should bring us together. But sometimes, that becomes a challenge. How does the Christmas story remind us about the value of relationships?

1. When relationships get difficult, Jesus brings us together 2:1-5 (on screen)

If you know the story of Joseph and Mary, you know that they had almost gotten divorced, right? Keep your finger there in Luke and turn to Matthew 1:18-21 (on screen)

In Jewish life at that time, when a man and a woman were engaged or betrothed, they would enter into a period of one year when they would not be stalking others on Facebook or trolling on the dating sites—they would be totally committed to each other. During that year, the man would go and prepare the place for them to live together. Then on the wedding day, he would sneak up with his groomsmen, surprise her, and take her to the wedding ceremony. If at any time, the groom found out or even suspected that she was unfaithful, he could have her stoned.

So when Joseph finds out that she’s pregnant, he has a dilemma: do I have Mary stoned or do I just go ahead and divorce her quietly. So the angel of the Lord shows up and says, “Listen, I know this will be difficult; people will accuse you of immorality; your name will be tarnished; it would be a lot easier for you to bail on this relationship, but don’t. I know this is difficult, but God wants you to stay together.”

Relationships are difficult. Need stats and anecdotes on millenials’ difficulty of keeping substantive relationships; easier to play video games and live at home….

Marriage is tough. Sometimes we’re tempted to just walk out because they are so cottin-picking hard. Funny story. But God’s plan is to work out the wrinkles in relationships and learn how to love even when it’s not easy or convenient.

But let me tell you what God’s plan is: stay together. Jesus in the center of any marriage can bring you together. (need chart/draw triangle) Reengage testimony: one last try then divorce—now they are committed to make it work with Jesus at the center. XO conference (LOGO)…

2. When we feel isolated, Jesus brings us together 2:6-15 (on screen)

How isolated and alone Joseph and Mary must have felt. They have just traveled about 90 miles, Joseph walking and Mary riding on a donkey. That trip would take weeks. No McDonald’, no ATMs, no La Quintas. They get to Bethlehem about 8 miles SW of Jerusalem and they’ve got no money, no room, no friends, and for whatever reason, there were no extra pallets at their relatives.

But did you notice that God didn’t abandon them? God sent them angels, shepherds, and a year or two later, even 3 men in turbins from another country!

Christmas can be a lonely time for so many. I think of many of our senior adults who have lost their husbands or wives. I cannot imagine the isolation they feel at Christmas to not have their life-mate with them.

Then there are those amongst us who are divorced; their marriages fell apart and now they are forced to go thru each Christmas season being reminded over and over again that they are alone.

Young singles head home at Christmas and everyone there seems to be paired with someone—and they’re not.

One of the ministries I’m so pumped about is our Singularity (logo) that brings single adults together for community. When I was single, my singles group was my lifeblood.

In fact, Biblical community is God’s answer to isolation and loneliness. Gathering around the Bible, sharing what Jesus is doing in our lives, finding encouragement and strength and prayer from other followers of Jesus is just what the doctor ordered for isolation.

If you’re not in a LifeGroup, I encourage you after the 1st of the year to get involved in a LG. (slide with GroupLink dates)

Maybe this Christmas you’ll be around a lot of family and friends, but when the holidays are over, who will speak words of encouragement into your life? Who will touch the hurts and struggles and bring healing?

Story of Michelle ?, leaving to go be with her son…LG gathered the Sunday she left….

3. When Jesus brings us together, that is something to be treasured. 2:16-20 (on screen)

At the birth of Jesus, look how people came together:

The people were amazed and rejoiced together

The shepherds were praising and glorifying God together

And Mary—she was treasuring all of this in her heart.

When Jesus brings people together, particularly at Christmas, there is so much to be treasured: family, friends, and most of all, the wonder that God would visit us as Emmanuel: God with us.

Jesus doesn’t abandon us in the difficulties and isolations of life. He enters into our world and brings a sense of completion and companionship that no other relationships can.

39.2 percent of shoppers will purchase a department store gift card for friends and family, followed by 33.4 percent of shoppers opting for a restaurant gift card. But according to estimates reported in the Journal of State Taxation, the typical American home has an average of $300 in unused or "unredeemed" gift cards. These cards are often misplaced, accidentally thrown out, or only partially redeemed. Between 2005 and 2011, $41 billion in gift cards went unused.

You have a gift card good for helping people less fortunate. Use it. You have a gift card for inviting an elderly neighbor over for Christmas dinner. Use it. You have a gift card for enjoying and celebrating the relationships you have. Use it. You have a gift card to gaze at the glory and the wonder of the Incarnation and marvel that Jesus would enter into your world, to come alongside you, to whisper sweet words of encouragement and to listen to Him sing love songs to you. Use it!