A police officer in a small town stopped a motorist who was speeding down main street.  “But officer,” the man began, “I can explain…”  “Just be quiet,” snapped the officer, “I’m going to let you cool your heels in jail until the police chief gets back.”  “But officer, I just wanted to say…”  “And I said to keep quiet!  You’re going to jail!”  A few hours later the patrolman looked in on his prisoner and said, “Lucky for you the chief is at his daughter’s wedding.  He’ll be in a good mood when he gets back.”  “Don’t count on it,” answered the  fella in the cell, “I’m the groom.”

In the U.S. there is a town in the south that is giving offenders a choice: serve time by sitting in jail or by sitting in a pew.  Judges in Bay Minette, Alabama, will give those found guilty of non-violent crimes the option of carrying out their sentence behind bars or attending church every Sunday for a year.  The goal of the program is to help those who are not yet hardened criminals time to still turn their lives around.  For anyone who chooses the spiritual option, they’ll have to check in with the police each Monday morning, showing by the pastor’s signature that they have been present among his flock for worship the day before.  Then once you attend services for the fifty-two weeks, your case is dismissed and your record is expunged.

The bottom line?  In Canada, it cost $10 billion a year to jail non-violent offenders.  I say, far better to have budding criminals pray now, than taxpayers pay later.

Advent Archaeology

Elias and Martina Shama bought a building in Nazareth which they planned on turning into a souvenir shop.  As they started renovations, the local couple discovered  behind one wall: pipes and the top portion of a tunnel.  Further digging soon revealed a vast underground complex.  As required by Israeli law, they contacted the Antiquities Authority – whose officials informed them they had simply found a Turkish bathhouse – a little more than a century old and of minimal interest.  So the Shamas continued digging under the shop and after three years, with hired help, unearthed a beautiful ancient bath house.  Now upstairs they sold souvenirs and downstairs they provided paid guided tours, selling coffee/tea afterwards.  And the story might have ended there had it not been for the Shama’s unshakable conviction that their discovery was not simply some legacy left by Turkish invaders.  Born-again Christian Arab believers, Elias was plagued by dreams of Jesus sitting in his bathhouse.  He began visiting neighboring ancient sites to make comparisons.  And the more he saw, the more he doubted the Antiquities Authority verdict.  Finally, Elias found an ally in Tzvi Shacham, the senior archaeologist at Tel Aviv’s Antiquities Museum, who visited the shop and informed the couple their bathhouse was indeed very old.  A North American research team was brought in to conduct high-resolution radar surveys around the bathhouse and a number of other subterranean structures were found.  This was followed by samples collected for radio-carbon dating, confirming the structure to be at least 2,000 years old.  And their final report?  “We believe this bathhouse to be Roman from the time of Christ, and the consequences of this for archaeological knowledge of the life of Jesus are enormous.”  Why so important?  Because up until now it had been assumed that the Nazareth of Jesus’ time was nothing more than a little agricultural village of about 250 people.  However, this style of Roman bathhouse is not found in a small town, but a large city.  And so experts are now predicting that further digging will lead to a Nazareth of  up to 20,000 people.    Thus Jesus would not have grown up in a small rural setting, but in a sizeable urban centre.  All of which simply confirms what God’s word already said in Matthew 2:23 – And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets.