This is our third Advent poem for 2016. Having considered Leah and Rachel, we now turn to Jacob. 

The night Jacob wrestled with God was not an anomaly,
But the culmination of this man’s gritty biography,
Marked at the start by an unyielding grip,
And at the end by a divinely dislocated hip.
What man emerges from the womb, brother’s heel in hand,
And then catches him in weakness after a day of tilling the land,
Robbing him of his birthright for a bowl of soup?
The same man who would later willingly stoop
To the task of deceiving his father, aged and blind,
In a plan his mother had meticulously outlined,
For stealing Esau’s blessing, though it was not his to lose,
Since it was Jacob who God would willingly choose.
Yet Rebekah had failed to realize that her scheme
Would result in her eldest son’s murderous scream,
And the departure of her favored son to the land of her birth
As she embraced him for the final time here on this earth.
And now the heel-grabbing schemer, alone in the world,
In his dreams saw a staircase from heaven unfurled,
And chose in that moment to cut a deal with his father’s God,
Swearing that if He would be with him through the lands that he trod,
Then he would serve him when he returned to that very place
And was forced to see again his elder brother’s face.
For the next twenty years, Jacob met his match
In a father-in-law who knew how to shamelessly hatch
Deceptive plans of his own for personal gain,
Heedless of others wishes or pain.
Yet in the end it was Jacob whose deception prevailed.
No matter how often he tried, Laban finally failed
And was forced to release his grandchildren and daughters
To return to the land of Jacob’s forefathers.
And now, two decades removed from that fateful day
When he’d taken all of Esau’s blessings away,
He heard that his brother, along with 400 men,
Was coming to meet him. So once again,
Jacob who naturally hustled and conspired
Took every living thing that he had acquired
And divided them out to both bribe and deceive
And possibly purchase his brother’s reprieve.
But on the banks of Jabbok later that night,
It was not a dream Jacob had, but a violent fight.
There he wrestled with God, up to and then past the point,
When the touch of his hand pulled his hip from its joint.
The angel finally said, “Day has broken; let me go.”
Jacob demanded, “Promise your favor to show.”
“What is your name?” was the question in reply.
“Jacob.” Deceiver. Heel grabber. One who would willingly lie
To father or brother or anyone, anywhere
If he felt like it could result in his own welfare.
“Your name is no longer Jacob, because now you’ve become
Israel – a man who wrestles with God and has overcome.”
And so God blessed him there – Peniel Jacob named the place,
“Because I have seen God and not died, though I looked on his face.”
The sun rose on him there, a man broken of pride,
With a new name on his tongue and a limp in his stride.
This Advent, may the baby in the manger come in the night,
And wrestle us to the ground until we can no longer fight.
May his meekness and strength, his purity and authority,
Make us hold on and cry out, “I won’t leave ‘til you bless me.”
And whatever the pain that his touch might inflict
As he exposes our pride and our depravity convicts,
May we know that in love the Father often must
Cripple our strength to strengthen our trust,
Making us those who’ve been undone and had his coal touch our lip;
Those who hobble through life as children of the dislocated hip.
So let the light of this candle be like the light of the dawn
That arose on limping Jacob when his wrestling was done.
May we see our own limp and the new name we’ve been given
Through faith in Christ Jesus whose body was riven
To open the veil and let us look on his face.
What mercy to us Jacobs! What fathomless grace!