12 And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! 13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. 14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
God always comes to us. It’s never the other way around. It is simply impossible for us to build a tower to God. And the truth is, when we start building towers to heaven, they aren’t about God, they’re about us.
This is why we all need an advent. We need God to arrive where we are.
And that’s exactly what God did for Jacob.
Talk about an angelic advent! Jacob the deceiver is running for his life from his brother Esau and has stopped for the night in Bethel. There he dreams the most amazing dream. A ladder connecting heaven and earth with angels ascending and descending on it.
This is not a stairway TO heaven (sorry Led Zeppelin). It’s a stairway FROM heaven. And down from heaven, among his angels, comes God.
And the most amazing thing about Jacob’s angelic encounter with God is what God says to him. In Genesis 27 Jacob lied, cheated, and stole from his brother and his father. God’s words to Jacob in Genesis 28 should be condemnation and cursing. But instead, in his advent, God speaks blessing over Jacob. The same one he spoke to his grandfather Abraham when he called him out of the land of Ur.
But there’s more. God goes beyond the Abrahamic blessing and makes four very personal promises to Jacob in verse 15.
- I am with you.
- I will keep you wherever you go.
- I will bring you back to this land.
- I will never leave you.
These are the blessings of every advent. These are the blessings of God’s pure unconditional one-way love. These are the blessings of grace. These are the blessings of God’s presence. I am with you. God’s presence is what satisfies all of our longings. God’s presence calms all our fears. God’s presence alone empowers all of our faith and obedience.
This is why we all need an advent.
Two thousand years after Jacob’s vision Jesus will come to earth down that ladder from Heaven. But Jesus will claim something even more remarkable. He will claim to not only have come down the ladder, he will claim to BE the ladder.
John 1:51. And [Jesus] said to [Nathanael], “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
The angels are ON Jesus, the Son of Man. He IS the ladder. He is the meeting of Heaven and Earth. He is God’s blessing. He is God. He is us.
He IS I am with you.
He IS I will keep you wherever you go.
He IS I will bring you back to this land.
He IS I will never leave you.
Jesus, the connector of heaven and earth, has come to us and connected our lives to his own. Now like the angels, we are ascending and descending on the ladder of Christ. Freely moving between Heaven and Earth. Constantly receiving the heart melting, unconditional, divine blessings of our union with Christ. But also constantly facing the sorrows and unmet longings of our humanity as we wait for Christ’s return.
- Are you building a stairway to heaven or is Jesus your ladder today?
- Do you see yourself as on the ladder of Christ? Ascending and descending and connecting heavenly realities to earthly ones? In Christ you are!