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.
Why – because he hadn’t taken any notice of what he thought were just ordinary pebbles.
He`d spent the whole of his life searching for riches, but had missed the FACT that he was already rich - because those pebbles could have been the answer to his longings.
Many folk around us do the same.
They work hard to earn enough money to live comfortably and think they are rich.
But when it comes to death – we return to dust from which we have come as the Burial Service reminds us.
They die poor – because they don’t recognise the riches that they have.
They are looking for “fool’s gold” when they simply need to pick up the “uncut diamonds” that God is offering them.
So what are these “uncut diamonds” that so many of our countrymen miss?
I think they are tied up with the meaning of Advent.
In Advent we REMEMBER the Incarnation – that is God becoming a man.
Advent reminds us that Jesus was (and still is) a historical person.
History tells us that :
Jesus, the son of God left his place of majesty and power to come to this earth 2000 years ago
He was born in Bethlehem and he lived life on this earth until he was about 33 years of age.
And then He died on a Roman Cross
In Advent we also LOOK FORWARD to Jesus’ coming again in glory – as our last reading
Advent reminds us that Jesus not only died - but He rose again, as the four Gospels and the Book of Acts records.
And following his Ascension HE is seated with God the Father in a position of majesty and power once again
And Jesus offers HIS DISCIPES the ability to partake in all that.
In John 15 Jesus said: “In my Father’s house there are many mansions… I go to prepare a place for you” Jn 14:2 (new KJV)
BUT we cannot enter the Father’s house with the filth and dirt of our sin. Jesus therefore died on a Cross to cleanse us from our sin.
It is what John Stott refers to as the “Holy Love of God”
Like the prospector’s “uncut diamonds”, we have access to these wonderful riches – but the cost is the CALL to FOLLOW HIM.
To be his disciples – with all that entails.
So I would like to leave you with a thought:
The real focus of our Advent has nothing to do with the number of shopping days to Christmas
It is not an opportunity to go an a shopping spree and to commit what some have called
"willful economic first-degree murder
to our bank accounts, with malice of forethought".
All the advertising around us encourages us to be caught up in a consumer Christmas
The danger is that, as the Gold prospector, we fail to recognize the REAL riches that we have at Christmas?.
Instead, let us focus on the real meaning of Advent
As we light the first Advent candle let us
reflect on the better world, that Jesus’ birth heralded
Advent invites us, as one commentator elegantly put it
“to fill the cup of today with a full measure of tomorrow. “
Britain is a deeply “spiritually inquisitive” nation.
How else can we account for the avid addiction to with the supernatural and horoscopes in the national press and on television.
Story: When I was a member of the Anglican Chaplaincy Team in the Wolds Prison, I found that lots of prisoners would pour over the Bible – fascinated by the prophecies of Revelation.
But few of them would go further and commit their lives to Christ.
Jesus wants us however to focus on living the Christian life today, not just dreaming of the future.
He wanted us to be secure in the knowledge that He came to offer us ETERNAL riches untold – to be with him in His Father’s house FOREVER.
Advent isn’t just a time for ‘star gazing’.
It is a time for action and resolution.
Story: Martin Luther is reputed to have said that even if he knew Christ was going to return tomorrow, he would still plant an apple tree.
(I do not know the original source of the Tin but would be happy to acknowlege if you know and e-mail me)