While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep; for she kept them. Now when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his mother’s brother Laban, and the sheep of his mother’s brother Laban, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of his mother’s brother Laban. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and wept aloud. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman, and that he was Rebekah’s son; and she ran and told her father. -- Genesis 29:9-12
Advent is a season of expectation, of new beginnings. Many of the readings associated with the Jesse tree this year deal with new starts or how things began, like the stories of Adam and Eve. With stories of Isaac and Rebekah we saw the beginning of their story together. In today's reading we meet Rachel, the niece of jacob's mother. Jacob met her at the well outside of the encampment where her father lived. Jacob was a gentleman and removed the lid so that Rachel could draw water for the thirsty sheep. Love at first sight? Very possibly, although Jacob would have to jump through a number of hoops in order to secure or Rachel as his wife. Still this was the beginning of their story, and showed the place of Rachel on the Jesse tree.
In a time when arranged marriages were the norm it seems that there were love matches. Abraham stuck with Sarah despite her barrenness, Isaac, so far as we know, was faithful to Rebecca, and now we have Jacob falling for a younger daughter who, despite all difficulties, was still the joy of his heart. Through trickery Jacob ended up marrying Rachel's sister Leah, then having to work seven more years in order to marry Rachel/ Leah gave him ten sons, each one with a name that reflected the fact that she knew she was not Jacob's favorite wife. Rachel gave Jacob two sons and in giving birth to the second son, she died. Those two sons were valued more highly than the other ten, and that caused some problems later on. Still Jacob loved Rachel and mourned her for the rest of his life.
Like Sarah and Rebecca, Rachel's fertility problems left her barren for years while her sister seemed to pop one out with great regularity. Like Sarah, Rachel had to deal with watching someone else to what she could not and, no doubt, it broke her heart. I imagine her reaction to finally becoming pregnant was much like that of her grandmother-in-law. While there is something to be said for instant gratification, oftentimes something is much, much sweeter when the I have to wait for it. Probably Rachel felt that too, and I'm sure Jacob did as well. Still, that part of the story is far in advance of the bit we have this morning.
What can I learn from Rachel? Perhaps it is the value of delayed gratification, the strength of a bond between two people, and the fact that sometimes chance meetings can bring a new beginning.