The Warmth of Christ’s Love

One of the books my family owned when I grew up was The Christmas Book, a collection of forty-five Christmas stories and poems. How do I know it had forty-five stories and poems? That book still sits on my shelf today.

At one inch thick this book was enormous to my small hands. Still, I tugged it off the bookshelf often and flipped the pages one by one. At first all I could do was look at the pictures. Next, I asked others to read stories to me. Then the day came when I was able to read the words on each page by myself.

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl was one of my favorite stories. I returned to it over and over. Although it does have a happily-ever-after ending, the story itself is rather sad. If you have read it, perhaps you understand.

In this post I’ll briefly give a story synopsis, so if you haven’t read the story, be forewarned.

The spark for this post came when I recently pulled that book off my bookshelf and turned the faded, fragile pages to page 281, and once again read the story that held my attention all those many years ago.

The Little Match Girl is the story of a young girl who lives with her strict father in a rundown shack. Her job is to sell matches. Christmas Eve she finds herself cold, hungry, and alone on the street with only her small handful of matches.

Three separate times she lights a match in an attempt to stay warm. Each time she envisions beautiful, wondrous sights. Near the end of the story a star falls, reminding the little girl what her grandmother told her before the grandmother died. “When a star falls from the sky, someone is dying and their soul goes up to God.”

Believing she sees her grandmother, the little girl asks her grandmother to take her with her.

This time, however, it isn’t a vision. The grandmotherly woman the girl sees is real. She takes the match girl home to live with her forever.

The end.

Or is it?

We may find ourselves cold, hungry, and alone in the world and wish someone cared enough to notice us. To love us. To provide for and protect us. We’ve lit every single match we hold and still, nothing. It all goes up in smoke. We feel as if all is hopeless.

That is, until Jesus steps into our lives, picks us up from the cold stone step we’ve sat on, and carries us to his home. A home he prepared for us which is more beautiful and wondrous than we could ever imagine. It’s warm. We’re safe. We smell delicious food. Jesus is smiling at us. He tells us he wants us to be his child forever.

Will we accept?

The choice is ours to make. We can stay outside the warmth of Christ’s love, or we can jump right into his arms and be safe now and forever.

The little match girl chose to stay safe with the lady who wanted to adopt her. What choice will we make?

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“Do not be worried and upset,” Jesus told them. “Believe in God and believe also in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house, and I am going to prepare a place for you. I would not tell you this if it were not so. And after I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am.” John 14: 1-3 (GNT)

You can find my December Inspire a Fire post here. Please stop by and read it.

I wish you well.

Sandy

What if the Shepherds Didn’t Seek the Messiah?

courtesy pexels.comWhat if the shepherds didn’t seek the Messiah?

The Bible tells us a multitude of Heavenly Hosts filled the sky the night Jesus Christ was born. In their appearance to the shepherds watching their flocks, we’re told the shepherds were afraid. I’d be frightened, too, if an army of angels suddenly appeared in the sky. Wouldn’t you?

An angel told the shepherds the news he shared was great. He said it would bring great joy to everyone. The great news was the announcement of the Savior’s birth. After the angels praised God over Christ’s birth, they told the shepherds to go see what had happened.

We remember the shepherds left their flock of sheep, their livelihood, and went to Bethlehem. The City of David.

In Bethlehem, the shepherds found Baby Jesus in a manger.

Before the shepherds headed to Bethlehem, they did not form a committee to figure out the best way to get to Jesus. They did not ponder what they should say when they found the baby. They didn’t vote to see who would lead the way. They simple got up and went.

The shepherds left their sheep and went quickly into Bethlehem. Once they found the newborn baby, they told Mary and Joseph what the angels said to them in the field. Today your Savior was born…He is Christ, the Lord. Then the shepherds returned to their sheep, praised, and thanked God.

But what if the shepherds didn’t go?  What if the shepherds didn’t leave the security of their fields?  What if they didn’t walk however-many-miles into Bethlehem?  What if they didn’t search for Jesus?  Would their lives be changed, or would they be content to let the day of Christ’s birth pass by without notice?

Like the shepherds we are given a glorious message. Unlike the shepherds we live this side of the cross. We know what it cost God to send his son, Jesus, into our world to save us from our sins.

As we reflect on Christmas and the birth of a baby in the manger who became the Savior on the cross, we too must seek the Messiah. We must go quickly and tell others the Good News of a Savior who came to seek and to save everyone who is lost.

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When the angels went away from them back into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and saw the baby lying in the manger. When the shepherds saw him, they told them what the angel had said about the child. All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said. Luke 2:15-18 (GNT)

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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Why We Celebrate Jesus’ Birth

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

Once again Christmas has come and gone.

As we put Christmas 2016 behind us for another year, here are a few quotes to remind us why we celebrated the birth of our Savior two days ago, in the hope we remember the reason for the holiday everyday throughout 2017.

“Who can add to Christmas? The perfect motive is that God so loved the world. The perfect gift is that He gave His only Son. The only requirement is to believe in Him. The reward of faith is that you shall have everlasting life.” ~ Corrie Ten Boom

“Christmas is that moment in time when God, in His unconditional love, stepped out of heaven onto earth, in order that we might one day step out of earth into heaven.” ~ Charles F. Stanley

“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.” ~ C.S. Lewis

“How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, his precepts! O! ’tis easier to keep holidays than commandments.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!” ~ John F. MacArthur, Jr.

“The very purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was that he might offer up his life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. He came to die. This is the heart of Christmas.” ~ Rev. Billy Graham

“The Christ child in the manger is forever an indication of the great lengths God will go to reconcile his creation, a savior willing to descend that we might be able to ascend with him…” ~ Ravi Zacharia

“The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.” ~ J.I. Packer

Which of these quotes is your favorite?

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 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:10-14 (NLT)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Sunday Scriptures Glory to God in the Highest!

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

Glory to God in the Highest! the angels sang on that night so long ago. Today we say, Happy Birthday, Jesus as we celebrate the birthday of the King of kings and Lord of lords. God’s only son. Immanuel – God with us. Prince of Peace. Savior. Redeemer. Friend.

Merry Christmas, Everyone! I pray God’s blessings upon you and your household.

Long ago God spoke in many different ways to our fathers through the prophets, in visions, dreams, and even face to face, telling them little by little about his plans. But now in these days he has spoken to us through his Son to whom he has given everything and through whom he made the world and everything there is. God’s Son shines out with God’s glory, and all that God’s Son is and does marks him as God. He regulates the universe by the mighty power of his command. He is the one who died to cleanse us and clear our record of all sin, and then sat down in highest honor beside the great God of heaven.

 Thus he became far greater than the angels, as proved by the fact that his name “Son of God,” which was passed on to him from his Father, is far greater than the names and titles of the angels. For God never said to any angel, “You are my Son, and today I have given you the honor that goes with that name.” But God said it about Jesus. Another time he said, “I am his Father and he is my Son.” And still another time—when his firstborn Son came to earth—God said, “Let all the angels of God worship him.” Hebrews 1:1-6 (TLB)

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I wish you well.

Sandy

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Mary Was Blessed Among Women

courtesy pixabayby Sandy Kirby Quandt

Many a time I’ve tried. I really have. But I just cannot imagine what it was like to be Mary, the mother of Jesus. To be a teenager engaged to be married, and told you would become pregnant with a child that was not your intended’s? To be told by an angel, of all things.

That right there would be scary enough.

God found favor in Mary. He chose her to give birth to the long awaited, much prayed for Messiah. Savior. Deliver. Mary was blessed above all others.

Bing Photos

A poor girl from the village of Nazareth. A descendant of the House of David. Mary was honored above all women who ever were and ever would be. Her son’s kingdom would never end.

How can you be the mother of the child of God?

It’s difficult enough being the mother of a regular everyday garden variety child. But to raise the son of the One True Creator God?

Like I said, I just cannot imagine it.

I can’t truly understand the flood of emotions that must have coursed through Mary’s every waking, and probably sleeping, moment. Me? The vessel chosen to deliver the Messiah to the world?

I believe that in God’s omnipotent, omniscient love and grace he shielded Mary from the shadow of the cross for as long as he could.

Beyond the awesomeness of being chosen to carry Immanuel in her womb must have Bing Photosbeen the pain of telling Joseph she was pregnant.

Would he believe her? Really believe her? Fortunately, God took care of that when he sent an angel to inform Joseph of what was going on.

Then, of course there were the neighbors. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

Did the gossip sting Mary’s heart? God took care of that too when Mary visited her cousin, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth pronounced the fact Mary held the Savior in her womb. Affirmation of who Jesus was. Who Mary was.

There were the angels. The shepherds. The wise men. Anna and Simeon in the temple.  Witnesses to the great thing the LORD God Almighty had done and would do.

God continues to use his people to accomplish his plans.

We won’t give birth to the Messiah, but like Mary if we’ve claimed Jesus as our LORD and Savior, we carry Christ inside us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

It then becomes our responsibility to praise God for the great things he has done for us through his love, mercy, and grace and share that wonder with those around us.

Do you ever wonder how Mary felt when she found out she would be the mother of the Messiah?

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Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him.” Luke 1:46-50 (NLT)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Once Again It’s Christmas

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

Less than a week before December 25.

I’m sure you did not need a reminder of that fact. We’ve been bombarded with the countdown to Christmas since before Thanksgiving.

Decorations. Stores. Lights. Wish lists. TV specials. The list goes on and on.

We are surrounded with advertisements telling us our lives will be incomplete if we don’t have X, Y, or Z. Our loved ones will be disappointed Christmas morning if they don’t find P, Q, R under the tree or in the driveway. But is that really true? I think not.

In our quest to have the perfect Christmas tree, decorations, meals, outfits, gifts … have we forgotten something? Is something missing?

What about going back to the original Christmas story. The one recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke about our Savior’s birth. There we find simplicity. Love. Wonder. Praise. Humility. Glory. Peace. Worship.

 

If Jesus has gotten pushed to the side, or worse yet, forgotten in our striving for the perfect Christmas, how about we pause, take inventory of our priorities, and make the main thing the main thing.

That night, some shepherds were in the fields nearby watching their sheep. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them. The glory of the Lord was shining around them, and they became very frightened.  The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I am bringing you good news that will be a great joy to all the people. Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is Christ, the Lord. This is how you will know him: You will find a baby wrapped in pieces of cloth and lying in a feeding box.” 

Then a very large group of angels from heaven joined the first angel, praising God and saying:  “Give glory to God in heaven, and on earth let there be peace among the people who please God.” Luke 2:8-14 (NCV)

And to quote Linus, “…That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

How are you keeping the main thing the main thing this holiday season?

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I wish you well,

Sandy

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Sunday Scriptures Balance

Isaiahby Sandy Kirby Quandt

There are thirty-one entries for the word balance on Dictionary.com. Who knew?

Here are a few:

  • noun
    a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc.
    something used to produce equilibrium; counterpoise
    mental steadiness or emotional stability; habit of calm behavior, judgment, etc.
    a state of bodily equilibrium
    an instrument for determining weight, typically by the equilibrium of a bar with a fulcrum at the center, from each end of which is suspended a scale or pan, one holding an object of known weight, and the other holding the object to be weighed
  • verb (used with object), balanced, balancing
    to bring to or hold in equilibrium; poise: to balance a book on one’s head
    to arrange, adjust, or proportion the parts symmetrically
    to be equal or proportionate to

But what does it look like to live a life of balance? Especially at such a busy time of year as December.

God says we are to be still and know him. The world says busyness is what counts.

How can we be still, press into God, and spend time resting in him to understand the true meaning of Christmas, if we spend all our time like hamsters on a wheel spinning round and round but never getting anywhere for the effort; running from one item on our to-do list to the next?

Where’s the peaceful balance in that?

Looking at our definitions of the word balance, the first thing we see is that equilibrium is the equal distribution of things. It is a habit of calm behavior. There are times in our lives when our equilibrium gets off balance and we feel as if we are unstable. Those times can be brought on by our own actions, or by the actions of others.
If you’ve ever experienced a loss of equilibrium through dizziness, you get the idea of what that can look like in our lives when we get our priorities out of whack.

I like the verb definition that says balancing something means to arrange, adjust, or proportion the parts symmetrically. Isn’t that what we try to do when we strive for a balanced life?

This definition from Webster is my favorite, though. A state in which different things occur in equal or proper amounts or have an equal or proper amount of importance.

Proper amount of importance.

Our primary focus needs to be on God and the truths found in his Bible. Next we need to spend the time to read that Word, study what it says, and finally apply it to our lives. Once we do that, we just might find the other things in our life fall into place proportionately with just the right balance.

What do you do to live a life of balance?

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I have thought much about your words and stored them in my heart so that they would hold me back from sin. Psalm 119:11 (TLB)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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God’s Indescribable Gift

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

Of all the gifts I’ve received one stands out—maybe because it was unexpected, unusually wrapped, and something I’d never seen before.

My father had a whimsy about him. At a time when money was tight and the gifts my parents gave were utilitarian, my father found a way to give me a special gift I needed.

One Christmas morning I stared at an enormous industrial-sized buff-colored bag leaning next to our tree. The bag was almost as tall as I was. There was no name on the bag. It could have been for any of us.

After all the gifts were opened except for the gigantic bag, I asked who it was for.

When my father said it was mine, I rushed to the bag. Expecting to find a gigantic doll house or super sized doll, I ripped at the staples that held the bag closed.

But the bag wasn’t heavy enough to hold a doll house or large doll.

Not knowing what was inside, I stuck my hand in as far as it could go and found nothing.

I laid the bag on the floor, crawled inside, and bumped into something furry. Which caused me to scream.

When my father picked up the bag and turned it over, the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen fell out: a large black and brown fake-fur hat with pompoms at the end of the ties that would hold the hat on.

Thinking about God’s indescribable gift our heavenly Father gave the world more than 2,000 years ago, some might say that although the Messiah’s birth had been predicted, it was still unexpected. Because of the unusual way God wrapped his Gift, some found it difficult to accept. Nothing like God’s gift of his Son had been seen before.

Yet this special Gift was needed.

 

To receive the unexpected and much needed gift my father gave me, I had to look beyond its unusual wrapping, open it, accept it, and put it on.

Just as with my furry hat, we have to open God’s indescribable gift, accept it, and put it on before it becomes ours.

Have you ever been surprised by a gift wrapped in an unusual package?

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Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!  2 Corinthians 9:15 (NIV)

I wish you well.

Sandy

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Lest We Forget the True Reason for Christmas

by Sandy Kirby Quandt

December 1. Where did the year go? December 1 and Christmas is twenty-four days away. Before we get caught up in the bustle, stress and busyness that is often associated with this season, let’s make sure we pause, take a deep deep breath, and remember why we celebrate, lest we forget the true reason for Christmas.

Our story goes all the way back to the third chapter of the first book of the Bible, Genesis. God created man. Man sinned. God and man’s fellowship was broken. God sent a Redeemer, Jesus, to make us right with God again. When we accept Christ’s sacrifice and claim him as our Savior, our fellowship with God is restored.

God is Holy. He can’t be in the presence of sin. Our sin separates us from God. Christ’s sacrifice bridges the chasm between us and God. That sacrifice makes us acceptable to a Holy God. Our sins are forgiven, Glory Hallelujah!

 

I believe it is easier for us to envision a helpless cuddly baby coming into our world and feeling all warm and fuzzy over that thought, than it is to face the reality of a Suffering Savior nailed to a wooden cross, and acknowledge he took the punishment for a debt we owed, but could never pay.

Lest we forget the true reason for Christmas while we deck the halls with boughs of holly, sing jingle bells, shop ’til we drop, and bake like maniacs, please, let’s remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for each of us. And give thanks for the gift of forgiveness.

What do you do to remember the true reason for Christmas?

 

Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the subject. If you think others would appreciate reading this, please share it through the social media buttons.

Yet it was our grief he bore, our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, for his own sins! But he was wounded and bruised for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace; he was lashed—and we were healed! We—every one of us—have strayed away like sheep! We, who left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet God laid on him the guilt and sins of every one of us! Isaiah 53:4-6 (TLB)

I wish you well,

Sandy

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