In England the Feast of the Epiphany is transferred to Sunday 7 January

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When we make a cursory comparison between John the Baptist with Jesus, John doesn’t usually come out looking too good.  He tends to be portrayed as the old fashioned fire-and-brimstone preacher-a pulpit thumper-and not a very approachable.  By contrast, Jesus is seen as more of a soft touch.  He’s approachable; he smiles as he heals people and tells us to love each other.  John wants to tell us what we’ve done wrong, but Jesus wants to be our friend.

But is this contrast justified?  Well, we’ve just heard how John is anything but a hardnosed preacher.  All he wants to do is point people towards Jesus, the one who was going to give them the Holy Spirit.  He told the people that the reason for his call to repen­tance wasn’t to heap guilt on them.  Rather, it was so that they would be ready to receive the salvation Jesus had come to bring.  And when Our Lord does begin his public ministry he preaches the very same message of repentance—and in the exact same words—that John did.  It seems that both John and Jesus had more similarities than differences.

These similarities can give us some insights into our own call to preach the gos­pel.  They tell us that we too need to capture the excitement and the hope embodied in the phrase: “The kingdom of God is at hand!”  At its heart, the Gospel is good news about a God who calls us to his side.  It’s the good news about a merciful God who wants to wipe away all our sins and set us free from guilt.  It’s the good news about a God who wants to welcome us into his eternal kingdom.

It’s a privilege to be called to do the same work that John and Jesus did.  It’s a privilege to show people the way into the kingdom of heaven.  As we press on into 2018 how will we share the message of salvation with the people with whom we share our lives?

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