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I read of a man who had committed a crime for which he was deeply ashamed. When he’d served his prison sentence and was about to be released he wondered if his family would reject him because of the scandal he’d caused and the shame brought on the family. He wrote his parents saying that he would be coming back by bus but didn’t want to embarrass them with his presence if they didn’t want him back. He asked them to tie a yellow ribbon on the old oak tree at the beginning of their street if it was all right for him to return home. If there was no ribbon on the tree when the bus passed he wouldn’t get off the bus.

He was in quite a state on the bus journey and as it got nearer his street he couldn’t bear to look at the tree. He was so emotional that he asked the driver to look at for him. He needn’t have worried. The tree was covered with yellow ribbons! The whole community joined his parents in welcoming him back.

There’s a famous American song written about this story: ’Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree’. Here’s just a few lines:

’I’m coming home I’ve done my time

And I have to know what is or isn’t mine.

If you received my letter telling you I’d soon be free

Then you’d know what to do if you still want me.

O tie a yellow ribbon ’round the old oak tree

It’s been three long years - do you still want me?

A simple yellow ribbon’s all I need to set me free

If I don’t see a yellow ribbon ... I’ll stay on the bus, forget about us

Now the whole bus is cheering and I can’t believe I see

A hundred yellow ribbons ’round the old, the old oak tree.’

(Russell Brown/Irwin Levine)

The man was forgiven and welcomed back into his family. And that’s what God does to anyone who comes to Him and asks to be forgiven. He doesn’t show us a yellow ribbon but the Cross of Jesus as His sign of forgiveness and acceptance.

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