There are lots of ways to know that you are working. Maybe you’re sweating or stressed or your clothes are dirty. Maybe your list is getting shorter (or longer?) or you’re attending too many meetings or you’re on the phone or you’re sending emails or your computer needs to be plugged in. Maybe you’re focused or you started early or you ended late or you need a nap. There are so many signs that work is happening.
Now stepping out of the work environment and stepping into the relationship environment–they do cross over–but how do you know when someone is working on a relationship? How do you know when you are working on a relationship? How do you know when you are doing the work of relationship?
Relationship doesn’t just happen. Healthy relationship isn’t easy, and it doesn't happen by accident . Effort is an important factor in building and maintaining relationships. When we put effort into our relationships, it shows the other person that we value them and are invested in the relationship. This can help to create a stronger bond and foster a deeper sense of connection and trust between the two individuals.
On the other hand, a lack of effort in a relationship can lead to feelings of neglect, resentment, and disconnection. When one person feels like they are doing all the work to maintain the relationship, it can create an imbalance and lead to conflicts and misunderstandings.
Healthy relationship doesn’t just happen. It takes effort–WORK.
How do you know when you or someone else is doing the work of relationship?
In order to have a healthy and strong relationship, it is important for everyone to put effort into the relationship and to communicate openly and honestly about needs and concerns. This helps relationships to continue to grow and thrive.
I think this “effort” idea makes sense when we think about it. Family, friendships, co-workers, neighbors–effort is required for relationship.
Another way to think about this effort is as sacrifice. Sacrifice is required for a healthy relationship. Again, there are definitely different levels of sacrifice, but it’s still sacrifice. In a romantic relationship, one partner may sacrifice their time and energy to care for the other when they are sick. In a family relationship, parents may sacrifice their own personal desires in order to provide for their children. In a friendship, one friend may sacrifice their own plans in order to spend time with the other friend who is going through a difficult time. In a professional relationship, an employee may sacrifice their own needs in order to meet the demands of their job and help their company succeed. In a community relationship, members may sacrifice their own resources, such as time and money, to support a common cause or to help those in need.
What is it like to have a relationship with someone who doesn't put in any effort? (absence of sacrifice)
Sacrifice has lost its importance in modern humanity. But if you think about it, death is a prerequisite for life. In order to live you need to eat things that were once alive.
In ancient times, humanity was required to make sacrifices in order to maintain a relationship with God. This often involved offering up the first and best of their crops, livestock, and possessions as a sign of their devotion and gratitude. These sacrifices were seen as a way for people to cleanse themselves of their sins and show their obedience to God's laws.
The Christmas story is the story of God's plan to redeem humanity and bring them back into a right relationship with Him. It is the story of how God became a human being in the form of Jesus Christ and came to Earth to live among us.
God created humanity and placed them in the Garden of Eden, where they lived in perfect fellowship with him. However, humanity turned away from God and chose to go their own way, which caused a rift between them and God. In order to repair this rift and restore the relationship between humanity and Himself, God made a plan to send His Son, Jesus, to Earth to live as a human being and to ultimately sacrifice Himself for the sake of humanity.
On the first Christmas, Jesus was born in Bethlehem as a baby, just as the prophet Isaiah had foretold. He grew up to be a wise and loving man, and He taught people about God and His love for them.
What I want us to focus on is God doing the work.
Through the Christmas story, we see that God is not distant or uncaring, but rather He is a loving and compassionate God who wants to have a personal relationship with each and every one of us. This leads us to a question that I think is especially important to visit during this season. So much of faith gets wrapped into what we must do, who we must be, how we must achieve. But that’s not the Christmas story.
What is the range of things people believe they have to do to have a relationship with God?
It is so natural to be ruled by the thought, what do I have to do in order to deserve / have / gain / earn relationship?
Some insecurities can SHINE: They are so cool or so busy. They don’t need me or notice me or like me. Why would they? I feel it building: I am me. They are NOT me. I have issues and struggles. I am needy or odd or quirky. I have failed. I am ME. And they are NOT ME.
Jesus being born in the most humble of circumstances speaks volumes to His desire to have relationship with us.
In Matthew 2, angels appeared to shepherds. Not to the nobility. Not to the religious authorities. Not to the culturally most important. And the angels invited them to see the Savior born in the most humble of circumstances.
With this foundation, listen to these words of Paul:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)
So we end today with a question. As we anticipate celebrating Jesus’ birth, as we process the intentionality of relationship, and as we understand the cost of having relationship where there is not intentionality, now feel God’s intentionality in the birth of Jesus:
What does God’s effort to have a relationship with humanity say about Him and humanity?
Take It Deeper Questions
- Read Matthew 2:1-21.
- What stories have you heard about your birth?
- How do you tend to respond to extra tasks or extra challenges when you are already stretched thin?
- How would this story be different if Jesus was born into the richest family in the world?
- How would this story be different if Jesus was not visited by the shepherds or the wisemen?
- What insights does Jesus’ birth give us into the character of God?
- How are you challenged, encouraged, focused, and/or confused by this text?
Bible Reading Plan
The week before Christmas
- Day 1: Isaiah 7:13-14 & Isaiah 11:1-10 Prophecy of Jesus
- Day 2: Luke 1:1-25 Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
- Day 3: Luke 1:26-38 Birth of Jesus Foretold
- Day 4: Luke 2:1-21 Birth of Jesus
- Day 5: Luke 2:22-40 Jesus Presented at the Temple
- Day 6: Matthew 2 Wise Men Visit the Messiah
- Day 7: Luke 2:41-52 Boy Jesus at the Temple