21 And Isaac besought the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and he heard him, and made Rebecca to conceive. 22 But the children struggled in her womb: and she said: If it were to be so with me, what need was there to conceive? And she went to consult the Lord. 23 And he answering said: Two nations are in thy womb, and two peoples shall be divided out of thy womb, and one people shall overcome the other, and the elder shall serve the younger. 24 And when her time was come to be delivered, behold twins were found in her womb. 25 He that came forth first was red, and hairy like a skin: and his name was called Esau. Immediately the other coming forth, held his brother’s foot in his hand, and therefore he was called Jacob.
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Jacob, though he was younger than his brother, had been chosen by God to be the leader of the family. God always seems to chose the most unlikely people to do His will. Younger sons simply did not lead families; that was the older son’s position in life. But Rebekah had been promised by God that her younger son Jacob would surpass his older brother. And while Isaac preferred Esau, Rebekah loved Jacob best.
Though eventually, Rebekah would work to make sure Jacob received the blessing from his father, Jacob managed to secure it for himself first. Esau traded off his birthright for a bowl of stew because he was hungry. “Esau cared little for his birthright” is what the Bible tells us. And the birthright was a serious thing. The blessing given could not be taken back, and it would not be repeated for a second son, for it was particular to the man who was chosen by God to be the next leader of His people. But Esau was hungry and too lazy and impatient to make his own lunch. So he promised his twin to give up his birthright if he could eat Jacob’s lunch.
Esau cared little for his birthright.
Before we pass judgement on Esau for caring so little for his birthright, we should look in the mirror and see how we are so much like him. Our birthright as Christians is even greater than Esau’s birthright as head of the family. We have a birthright, from our Baptism, to Heaven. And yet how often do we turn from God and ignore His call in our lives? How often do we trade our birthright for something passing: Facebook and Twitter, a good movie on TV, sleeping in on Sunday instead of getting up early to pray and go to Mass?
We should take this Advent to focus on our birthright, and not to give it up for something far less important. This Advent, let’s keep our eyes on that manger, which waits for the Baby to come. Let’s dive into our faith and live it fully and claim our own birthright.
Meditation text and pictures © Christine Johnson, all rights reserved