Sunday Scripture — Christmas Eve 2017

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

Merry Christmas, everyone. I pray your Christmas is blessed. For each of us I pray we have a renewed awareness of who Jesus, the Baby in the Manger, Redeemer on the Cross, truly is and pray that awareness penetrates deep into our souls as we live our lives for the One who gave his life for us.

“Comfort, yes, comfort my people,” says your God.  “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and tell her that her sad days are gone. Her sins are pardoned, and I have punished her in full for all her sins.”

Listen! I hear the voice of someone shouting, “Make a road for the Lord through the wilderness; make him a straight, smooth road through the desert.  Fill the valleys; level the hills; straighten out the crooked paths, and smooth off the rough spots in the road.  The glory of the Lord will be seen by all mankind together.” The Lord has spoken—it shall be.

 The voice says, “Shout!”

“What shall I shout?” I asked.

“Shout that man is like the grass that dies away, and all his beauty fades like dying flowers.  The grass withers, the flower fades beneath the breath of God. And so it is with fragile man.  The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God shall stand forever.”

O crier of good news, shout to Jerusalem from the mountaintops! Shout louder—don’t be afraid—tell the cities of Judah, “Your God is coming!”  Yes, the Lord God is coming with mighty power; he will rule with awesome strength. See, his reward is with him, to each as he has done.  He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will carry the lambs in his arms and gently lead the ewes with young. Isaiah 40:1-11 (TLB)

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I wish you well.

Sandy

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A Special Deposit

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

Last week I volunteered at our church’s Christmas luncheon for the homeless in our area. Although I had conversations with several of the folks invited to the celebration, my conversation with a new member to our church, who was also there to volunteer, is what I’d like to write about today.

My new friend is recently from Iran; a Muslim country where professing to be a Christian has severe repercussions including not being allowed access to education and job opportunities. My friend, husband, and son are here while her husband studies at the local university.

In the short amount of time, months actually, since my friend arrived in America, she became a Christian. She felt something in her heart which drew her to Christ. That something is the special deposit God places within us to draw us to himself. That special deposit is his Holy Spirit.

As we talked, I asked if she’d told her parents about her decision to become a Christian. No.

They could face persecution if anyone knew she had chosen to follow Jesus.

I asked if she could ever go back to Iran. No.

Let me back up to the first few words my friend said when we were introduced. She told me she missed her family, and it was hard being away from them. Take a moment to read that again.

This woman willingly gave up her country, family, language, and everything she knew to embrace the Savior of the World. She has no regrets. Her heart overflows with joy. She felt the Holy Spirit’s tug, and responded to the special deposit God placed within her.

At one point in our conversation she said, “We don’t choose where we are born. God is the God of everyone. No matter where they live.”

God is the God of everyone. No matter where we are born, or where we live.

Those of us in America sometimes falsely believe we have the corner market on Christianity. God puts his special deposit of the Holy Spirit in people all across the world. He calls them to himself. He cherishes them as much as he cherishes us. He wants everyone to be saved and none to be lost. ALL nations are under God.

As you prepare to celebrate the birth of the Savior of the World, pause and give him thanks for the special deposit he placed within your heart and let the whole world, or at least those within your sphere of influence, know what that gift means to you.

How will you share what Jesus has done for you?

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And so God makes it possible for you and us to stand firmly together with Christ. God is also the one who chose us and put his Spirit in our hearts to show that we belong only to him. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (CEV)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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He Will Crush the Serpent’s Head

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

It isn’t often I go to the book of Genesis to reflect on Jesus’ birth, but that’s what I did recently.

When Pilot and I toured the painted churches of Schulenburg, Texas, the cemetery at the Praha church fascinated us. As we wandered through the grave markers, read the names, and noticed the dates of birth and death, Pilot made an amazing discovery.

It was a statue of Mary. If you look close, at the bottom of the statue you see a snake crushed under Mary’s foot. Fulfilling God’s prediction the day he confronted Adam, Eve, and the serpent in the Garden. Mary’s seed did indeed crush the serpent’s head.

Jesus has been, is, and always will be. Before the creation of the world, God knew man would sin and need a Savior. Jesus knew he would be the Sacrificial Lamb slain for the sins of the world.

Jesus’ birth in a manager in Bethlehem brought the Gift to mankind. His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary paid the debt we owed but could never pay. His resurrection conquered sin, hell, the serpent, and death. He fulfilled the promise God made all those many, many years earlier that although the serpent would bruise Christ’s heel, Our Redeemer would crush the serpent’s head. And glory hallelujah, he did exactly that!

Have you ever considered this section of scripture during the Christmas season before?

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Then the Lord God said to the snake, “You will be punished for this; you alone of all the animals must bear this curse: From now on you will crawl on your belly, and you will have to eat dust as long as you live. I will make you and the woman hate each other; her offspring and yours will always be enemies. Her offspring will crush your head, and you will bite her offspring’s heel.” Genesis 3:14-15 (GNT)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Sunday Scriptures – The Innkeeper

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

Have you ever wondered what the innkeeper thought when he told Mary and Joseph there was no room for them in his inn, yet offered them his stable?

When I was young I thought the innkeeper rather mean to turn them away. I wondered why he couldn’t squeeze them in somehow. Move things around. Make room amidst his crowded inn, and crowded life, for them to stay until Mary gave birth and recovered.

Maybe he was mean. Or maybe he was just preoccupied with all the busyness that surrounded him as he ran his overflowing inn, and accommodated his patrons. Perhaps he just could not handle two more people and a soon-to-be born infant.

Do you think the innkeeper regretted his decision once the multitude of angels’ voices filled the night air above his stable? Do you think he wondered what all the hub-bub was about? Do you think the innkeeper may have searched back in his memory to the scriptures he learned as a child about the Promised Messiah being born in the city of David?

Maybe. Then again, maybe not.

My intention is not to paint the man in a poor light. Nope. Not at all. My intention is for me and you to look at ourselves and see how much like the innkeeper we might be.

Have we told Jesus there is no room in our lives for him right now because of our busy schedules? We’re full up and consumed by other things at the moment. Maybe later.

Are we preoccupied with keeping the things in our lives running smoothly, and do not need to add studying the Bible to our ever-growing to-do list?

Does our busyness leave Jesus out in the cold of night until a more convenient time?

I don’t know. I only know the innkeeper couldn’t find any room for Jesus the King of kings and Lord of lords. Maybe his story is a lesson for us not to leave the Messiah out of our lives.

Just as the innkeeper needed to move something out of the way so Mary and Joseph had a place to stay, shouldn’t we move things out of the way so Jesus has a place in our hearts to stay?

What do you think? Have you any room for Jesus? If not, is that a decision you’ll regret  when the multitude of angels sing at the Savior’s return?

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So Joseph left Nazareth, a town in Galilee, and went to the town of Bethlehem in Judea, known as the town of David. Joseph went there because he was from the family of David. Joseph registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was now pregnant.  While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have the baby, and she gave birth to her first son. Because there were no rooms left in the inn, she wrapped the baby with pieces of cloth and laid him in a feeding trough. Luke 2:4-7 (NCV)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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The Shadow of the Cross at Christmas

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

Christmastime makes it really difficult for me to keep secrets. And I’m not fond of secrets.

When I was a child, the suspense of not knowing what was in the packages with my name on them was torturous. Absolute torture. Because of that, more times than not I surreptitiously lifted the cellophane tape off one end of my brightly colored presents and peeked inside.

After years of practice, I became an expert at unwrapping the package without damaging the paper, sneaking a peek, replacing the tape, and acting surprised on Christmas morning.

When I clandestinely unwrapped my Christmas presents, if there was a toy inside, whoopee! If there was a necessary sweater, or more knee socks, well …

As an adult, I have the same problem. Only in reverse.

I get so excited about what I’ve bought Pilot, I can’t wait for him to open it. To help him figure out the gift I give him hints. Sometimes, he won’t play along.

When I think about it, I wonder if God felt the same excitement and anticipation I feel at Christmas when he prepared to send his Gift of Love to our broken world. All through the Bible God gives us hints as to what was to come. The shadow of the cross. Sometimes his clues were ignored, and the people and wouldn’t play along, but that didn’t take away the gift.

God’s prophets spoke of a Messiah. Shepherd. Cornerstone. One from the house of Jesse. One from the line of David whose kingdom would never end. A Savior. Immanuel. God with us. These words hold joy and excitement.

Unlike the words in Isaiah 53:5. Words like pierced, crushed, punishment, wounds.

That’s when I understand the shadow of the cross of Calvary hung over the joyful gift of a baby in a manger in Bethlehem.

And I cry.

When I set up our manger scene for Christmas, I place  a cross with a crown of thorns next to it.

Lest I get caught up in the presents, the baking, the decorations, and the carols, I need a reminder in front of me. Perhaps you do as well.

Christmas is about much more than a baby, gifts, and family. Christmas is about the cross. It’s about the sacrifice, the suffering, and the Savior who died and rose again so we might live.

Don’t get me wrong, I still get excited about the gifts under the tree. But it’s the gift that hung on a tree, that really matters.

What do you think?

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But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5 (GNT)

I wish you well,

Sandy

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When the Christmas Blues Hit

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

This time of year can be beastly for so many, for so many reasons.

It can be difficult to get through the festivities when we’re dealing with personal issues that drag us into a downward spiral. When we feel like crying and the scenes surround us are filled with happy, smiling people it can be rough. I understand. I truly do.

No matter where we might find ourselves right now, I believe God knows what we’re going through and is right there with us. If you’re struggling, please know I’m praying God’s peace which passes all understanding will surround and comfort you.

According to many studies holidays increase feelings of loneliness and despair. Christmas blues.

The reason can be because we’ve lost loved ones, or because our high expectations of renewed happiness during the holidays don’t materialize.

Throw in SAD, and some of us may feel like hibernating until springtime.

So, how do we manage to put one foot in front of the other during times when things just seem so wrong?

The following suggestions are by no means a thus sayeth. They are merely observations.

For one thing, stay away from the Hallmark and Lifetime Channels. Even if the guy gets the girl by the end of the movie, and maybe because the guy gets the girl, those movies more times than not, are depressing when we feel like everyone has a perfect life except us. Turn. Them. Off.

Go through your DVDs. Check out movies from your library. Watch something funny, something uplifting. Watch The Princess Bride for the umpteenth time. (Inconceivable!) Watch a musical, just not The King and I. The ending makes me cry every time.

Lose yourself in a mystery. How about Foyle’s War? If all else fails, what about viewing It’s a Wonderful Life, or The Christmas Story? (You’ll shoot your eye out!)

Go to free holiday events. Window shop. People-watch.

Purchase something within your budget for yourself.

Volunteer for a worthy cause.

Get in touch with a friend you haven’t spoken to for awhile.

Listen to music you enjoy.

One suggestion if you’re really in a funk, listen to something snappy that sets your feet tapping and you can warble out loud to. Avoid those beautiful ballads like,”My Heart Will Go On”, and “The Way We Were”, unless you really need to cry it out. If that’s the case, set a limit to how long you’ll give yourself to feel the pain.

Make new traditions if you need to. Life is not static. It moves and flows with each breath we take. It’s okay to change things up a bit. If it doesn’t work, try something different.

What’s the best way you know to get out of a funk?  Especially during the holidays.

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There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (NIV)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Here’s a toe-tapper to get you going!

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