But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. . . Jacob said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably.” (Genesis 33:4, 10)
The story of the prodigal son is a picture of God’s unconditional love. It offers comfort not only to the repentant, but also to those waiting for their loved ones to return. The original prodigal was Jacob.
As a young man, he had tricked his brother Esau into giving away both his birthright and the blessing of the first born. The rift caused by this deception forced Jacob to flee the country. Years later, when life in his father-in-law’s home became intolerable, Jacob was faced with a decision: Do I stay here or return home to Canaan? He wrestled with God before plotting his return. He hoped to win his brother’s favor with gifts. But Esau met his brother with open arms, choosing reconciliation over retribution. The prodigal had returned.
From the moment Adam and Eve walked away from God, he began planning the reunion. But rather than waiting for the sinner to return, God took the initiative, offering himself as the gift:
“And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is thirsty come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17)
Alienation from God has never been his choice; it is ours. Advent is a reminder that “God so loved the world” that he came. . . pursuing us as a grieving father searching for his child. The light of the Christmas star is God’s invitation to come back to him. The throne room of heaven has become a barn. Nobles are exchanged for shepherds. Sinners are transformed into saints.
“Lord, we have an ache that reminds us when we are far from home. Open our eyes and ears to your grace so freely extended in the manger. Let this be a time of reconciliation and forgiveness.” Amen
Mindi Oaten’s painting “Brings down the Proud” is from God’s Garden of Grace collection. Two flowers from one bulb represent Jacob and Esau.