Hope found in a manger

Rev. Mike Olmsted

Westminster Presbyterian

 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

—Isaiah 9:6
As a child, the first sign of the Christmas season was not a change in the weather (I grew up in southern California), it was not hearing Christmas Carols playing in the stores, it was not decorating the Christmas tree, it was setting up our nativity scene.

Once my mom pulled out our nativity set, then I knew that Christmas was coming.  I always waited for that day.  It was a day of hope and it was a day that I always longed for as child.

I was also intently focused on setting it up the right way.  Every character had to be in their perfect position.  The sheep, the cows and the donkey were scattered around the perimeter of the stable, but their eyes were still able to see the central figure in this setting.  The shepherd boy with a small lamb draped over his shoulders was located within reach of the animals.  The wise men had left their camels on the outer edge and now were kneeling next to the manger.  Joseph stood stoically in background keeping a watchful eye over the proceedings.  The angel was silently hovering above them all, and Mary was as close to the manger as she could physically get.  And then with all the actors standing at the ready, Baby Jesus would be gently placed in the manger.  Ahh, Christmas was coming!

To this day whenever I see a nativity set, I am still filled with that hopefulness I had as a child.  But now my hope stems from more than just the excitement and wonder of the season.  It is filled with the hope of our Savior.  Hope is a difficult commodity to come by these days. Our hope dims with every negative story we hear, every report of violence we receive, every personal tragedy that we experience. The holiday season for many, if not all of us, does not always summon hope in our lives. We are confronted with individual pain, the memory of lost loved ones, the darkness of obstacles standing before us. But then we are reminded of what that little baby in the manger offers to us all.  The Christmas season is a celebration of true hope.

As the shepherds, the wise men, Mary and Joseph all encountered the Christ child for the first time, they would have remembered theprophet’s words:  “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a HOPE.”

Hope is found in the manger.  Hope comes from the Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, our Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.  This is what I see when I set up the nativity scene now.  I see HOPE!  Every piece is still in its correct place, but now there is a deep hope that shines forth.

We want to invite our entire community to experience this hope through the Festival of the Nativities on December 1 and 2 at Westminster Presbyterian Church.  You will be blessed with hundreds of unique nativities scenes, wonderful Christmas music and tasty holiday treats.

All are welcome to come and receive the Hope of Christmas!
The Rev. Mike Olmsted is the senior pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 802 4th St. SW, Austin. He can be reached at molmsted@westminsteraustin.com. or 507-433-3258

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