Summary: There are gems in all familiar stories, and this too is one. We too like John are called to proclaim the graciousness of God - the Good News of the Kingdom

Luke 3:1-6: The Coming of the Lord’s forerunner

THE TIN – Riches untold

Story: In the late nineteenth Century in South Africa, an old man was digging for gold in a river bed.

He had been at it for many years.

Every now and then he found a little bit of gold, not enough to make him rich – but just enough to maintain his interest.

The part of river in which he was prospecting was quite new to him - and there were more signs than usual of the presence of gold.

He was quite excited - gripped by the gold fever, but, once again he found little of substance.

As his dig neared its end, he found himself

exhausted and discouraged.

He was just about to go home one evening when he saw some pebbles.

He liked the look of them, so he slipped them into his pocket.

There were about a dozen of them.

At home he got out a tin and put the pebbles into it.

The tin was special – for it was filled with very personal items,

letters from his son,

a photo of his wife who had died some years before,

the collar from his old dog who had died 18 months earlier.

He put the tin back on the shelf in a cupboard and forgot about the pebbles he had found

Another ten years went by and he still hadn’t made that gold strike that he had so longed for.

By now he was very old, and ill, with no ready money to pay for a doctor - he died.

A few days later the police came to his house.

They looked through his belongings to see if there was anything they could sell -to pay for his funeral, but they found nothing of any value.

Even his house was just an old wooden shack falling to pieces.

And then they found THE TIN.

As one of the officers looked through it, he gasped with surprise.

"Look at this" he said to his partner. He was pointing to the pebbles the old man had placed in that tin 10 years earlier.

"They`re uncut diamonds!", he said, "They`re worth a fortune"!

The old man had INDEED been very rich, but had died thinking that he was very poor - because he hadn’t looked closely enough at what he thought were just ordinary pebbles.

He`d spent the whole of his life searching for

riches, but had missed the FACT that those

pebbles were the answer to his longings.

We are so familiar with the stories surrounding

the Nativity of Jesus that we don’t realise what riches we can find in them.

However, if we look carefully we can find gems

Our Gospel reading today is no exception

John the Baptist plays a pivotal role between the

Old and the New Testament.

He offers the riches that many of us have been seeking

Access to a loving God

Until John came on the scene, for nearly 1500

years since the writing of Leviticus, the only way

to approach God had been by presenting a special

animal to a priest for a blood sacrifice and by

keeping the Law of Moses.

Now John, who was the son of a priest, Zechariah ushers in a new way of approaching God.

It would have been normal for John to have been named after his father Zechariah, but God had other plans.

In those days, names had great significance and so it is with John.

The name Zechariah means “Remembered of the Lord” but John has a quite different meaning. It means “God is gracious”

And it is the graciousness of God that John’s ministry introduces, a graciousness that extends not only to the Jews, but also to us the Gentiles.

God graciously provided his own Son as the ultimate blood sacrifice so we could be made righteous by faith alone.

As John the writer of St John’s Gospel sates:

For Moses gave us only the Law with its rigid demands and merciless justice, while Jesus Christ brought us loving (merciful) forgiveness as well. (Jn 1:17 TLB)

In the Old Testament, we see the sacrifices as a prefiguring of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus

If we think that the message of the Old Testament was that God’s people were justified by keeping the Law, we need to think again

Theirs was the same Gospel as we have

Abraham was first and foremost justified by faith.

God made Abraham the promise that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars and we read:

Abram believed the Lord and He credited it to him as righteousness (Gen 15:6)

And we have the famous chapter in Hebrews 11 where a whole list of Old Testament people are justified by faith.

John was the forerunner of Jesus the Messiah, prophesied 400 years earlier by the prophet Malachi

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