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Meeting God in the Unexpected
Reflecting on the First Sunday after Christmas: Two Days after Sunday (Year A)
Psalter: Psalm 72
Old Testament: Genesis 28:10-22
Epistle: Hebrews 11:13-22
O God of ancient blessing, your servant Mary pondered in her heart the treasured words spoken about her Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Prepare our hearts to receive his Spirit, that our tongues may confess him Lord. Amen.
Jacob left Beer-sheba and went towards Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it (Genesis 28:10-12).
We human beings aren’t used to the unexpected. We have our routine and we love it. It is disconcerting to have the day planned out when a phone call or a knock at the door or a text message reveals that our plans for the day just went out the window.
Jacob is on the run from his brother, who wants to kill him. While fleeing, Jacob stops to rest for the night and has a dream in which he sees a ladder—or better— a staircase reaching up to heaven. Angels are ascending and descending and God appears to Jacob and speaks to him.
God makes a covenant with Jacob, promising to protect him and to make him the ancestor of a great nation. God also tells Jacob that the land on which he is present will be given to his descendants. This passage marks the beginning of the biblical account of God’s relationship with the Israelite people in a fuller way. It also serves as an important foreshadowing of the role that Jacob’s descendants will play in the history of the world, as God’s chosen people. Surely, this is not something Jacob s expecting.
Esther M. Menn writes,
Mid-journey, at a site chosen because of nightfall, Jacob has an extraordinary dream that changes his life. His dream discloses the hidden yet active presence of God at this chance stop along the way. God’s ongoing engagement in the world and in Jacob’s disrupted life is portrayed through a striking vision of stairs reaching from earth to heaven.
Ordinary people are the means for God’s widespread blessing. God announces that “all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring” (Genesis 28:14). Earlier Esau protests, “Have you only one blessing, father? Bless me, me also, father!” and weeps in frustration at being excluded (Genesis 27:38). The coveted blessing that destroy this family is countered with God’s alternative vision. Rather than a limited blessing won through defeat and humiliation of others, God extends a prodigal blessing to all the families of the earth through Jacob and his descendants.
Jacob’s surprising encounter with God at Bethel leads to reflection about where we as individuals and as congregations meet God unexpectedly on life’s journey.
Whatever we have planned in this day, rest assured that God will meet us in the routine; but we must also be prepared for our Lord to meet us in the unexpected. We are ordinary people and God speaks to us, sometimes through extraordinary means.
PRAYER: God, you have claimed us as your people and entrusted the justice and holiness of your creation to our hands and hearts. Hear the prayers we offer this day on behalf of this world. Grant that we may not only pray with our lips, but be courageous in conduct, responding to your grace with faithful and fruitful action. Amen.
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