“Jacob: I’ll be home for Christmas”
Scripture Reading: Genesis 28:10-22
Today is the second Sunday in the season of Advent and the lighting of the Advent candle is a sign of hope against the darkness. We remember the coming of Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, who comes not just to “save us from our sins”, but to set the whole world right.
The Old Testament is the story of the Christ who was to come and we see that again in our reading for today. In Genesis 28 we enter the life and times of a person named Jacob. Who is Jacob? He is the son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham. He is the father of twelve sons from whom the nation of Israel will come about. From Jacob and his family has now come our Lord Jesus Christ. In our reading we enter a time in Jacob’s life where we find him running away from home. Home is not where Jacob wants to be because he has made a mess of his home-life through his lies and deception. He is tired, homeless, and using a stone for a pillow. Jacob is in a bad way. Life is not good. He will be nothing more than the sum total of his sins if there is not an invasion of grace into his life.
“Coming home” speaks to the deepest longing within every human being that goes back to the Garden of Eden. What happened in Eden? What does it really mean to “come home”?
How do we see this desire for “homecoming” in some of the holiday songs and shows?
(How does Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer lead a certain someone home?!!)
God enters the life of Jacob by way of a dream that is described for us in 12-13. There we read, “He had a dream in which he saw a stairway (ladder) resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD and he said: I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.” This is a vivid picture of an awesome event: the stairway, the angels, and most central of all in the picture – the covenant Lord. Jacob’s dream is the sign of Advent: God has come down. Jacob’s dream is a light in the darkness showing God coming to his people.
Why is the stairway or “ladder” in Jacob’s dream NOT like a rope ladder?
How does Jesus apply the picture in this dream to himself? (see John 1:51)
The picture we get from the dream is important and so are the words the Lord speaks in this dream. In Genesis 28:15 we have the promise of Jesus Christ and the hope that is ours in this Advent season. God says to Jacob, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Literally the verse begins with the Lord saying, “Behold, I am with you …” This means “pay attention!” God has something new to say to Jacob. What does God promise to him?
First, to lost and homeless Jacob the Lord says, “I am with you”. This is the promise of the Lord’s Presence. Second, to lost and homeless Jacob the Lord says, “I will watch over you”. This is the promise of the Lord’s Protection. And third, he Lord says to lost and homeless Jacob, “I will bring you back”. This is the promise of Homecoming. The fugitive will be brought home. Presence, Protection, and Homecoming: this is the three-fold promise of God spoken to Jacob and still offered to the world today. To drive home this gospel of grace, the Lord finishes with these words at the end of verse 15 saying, “I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
When Jacob wakes up, how does he respond to the dream?
What does “Bethel” mean?
How does God in Jesus give us his presence, protection, and homecoming?
In Christ we find our way home and by grace, through faith we hear the invitation. The grace revealed in Jacob’s dream is stated for us in I Timothy 2:5-6 where it says, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all – the testimony given in its proper time.” Jacob’s dream, Jacobs’s ladder is a Christ-centered picture. Heaven and earth, God and humanity – they are brought together through Jesus Christ and the Kingdom he brings. Everywhere we go is the “house of God” because the “gate of heaven” that is revealed to Jacob is the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.
In Jesus Christ God comes to us, God calls us home, and God sets the world right. This is the light in the darkness, the true story of everything, the sure and certain hope of our salvation. Amen.