I’ve been living a bit in Jacob’s story. His life is quite the soap opera. After tricking his nearly blind, dying father Isaac into bestowing a blessing upon him instead of his older brother Esau, Jacob fled the scene as Esau sought to kill him. Over a decade passed with Jacob carrying the burden and fear of that relationship gone wrong. Now, he was ready to return home, and knew he’d have to encounter his estranged brother. That night, as Jacob prepared his resources to be sent ahead of him as a peace offering, Jacob wrestled with God (Gen. 33:22). And, depending on how you translate the story, Jacob saw God face-to-face.
The next morning, as a new day dawned, Jacob lifted his eyes and saw his brother Esau coming toward him with 400 men. Jacob walked toward what he feared would be a battle line, and instead Esau embraced his brother. Jacob urged Esau to take the resources he’d sent ahead of him as gifts, but Esau refused. Jacob, however, would not relent: “Accept my present from my hand. For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me” (Gen. 33:10).
Interpret the whole “I’ve seen God face-to-face” bit however you want. The bottom line is that Jacob likened reconciling with his brother Esau, seeing his face as a friend, to seeing the face of God. Reconciling with an enemy or estranged loved one, at least for Jacob, is like seeing the face of God.
We all have crazy relatives. Christmas time has the distinct ability to bring out the best and worst in all of us, especially those who already annoy us. As we’re perhaps forced to sit knee-to-knee and look eye-to-eye with those we’d rather not this holiday season, perhaps we should bring a gift, and do a little wrestling with God in advance, and see if the giving of our gifts can become a bridge to reconciliation. Perhaps, we’ll find that seeing a friend in the face of a former enemy is like seeing the face of God.