I often awoke before sunrise in order to get an early start on the day.
My carpentry shop was a haven from the cacophony outside — the muffled cadence of soldiers marching through the streets, the pitched frenzy of vendors hawking their wares in the central market and the animated voices of neighbors arguing over the petty problems of the day.
Here in my shop I could escape with my memories.
I recalled how an angel had appeared to me in a dream with a clear message that the baby my fiancé was carrying was conceived by God himself.
And the messenger even gave instructions on the name we were to give him — Jesus — for he was to become the ruler of a kingdom that would never end.
As I sanded the corners of a chair, I thought about Joseph, the favored son of Jacob and my namesake, who also had dreams that enabled him to understand his times.
His 10 older brothers, motivated by jealousy, had sold him for 20 shekels, the price for a slave, to a caravan of merchants headed to Egypt. Would such a fate await our son, on whom God’s favor had been granted?
I recalled the Magi from Persia who had come with precious gifts for our baby. As astrologers, they understood the movement of the stars and had followed a maverick star to our temporary home in Bethlehem.
They even had an audience with Herod the Great, the tyrannical ruler of our country, who had ordered them to return once they found the infant.
But we all knew Herod’s reputation for ruthlessness and his jealous obsession for power.
Prior to departing for their return trip, these star watchers had also been visited by a message-filled dream instructing them to defy Herod and return to their home country by another route.
I, too, had been warned by an angel in yet another dream to flee to Egypt, for Herod, crazed by jealousy and fear, was about to unleash his brutality on the innocent infants of Bethlehem.
That very night, I loaded our gifts and possessions onto a donkey and fled with my young family to Egypt.
A lump formed in my throat as I thought about how I, like my ancestor Joseph, had found refuge for our families in Egypt. Was I, like Joseph, part of a grander purpose of God’s?
I recalled how an Egyptian pharaoh came to power who had forgotten the compact that had been made centuries before with Joseph. That pharaoh, crazed by jealousy and fear, ordered the execution of all male Israelite babies. But one of those babies had escaped the massacre, hidden by his mother in a basket in the marshes near the Nile.
That infant would one day lead his enslaved kinsmen back to their land of destiny. Was God preparing yet another rescued infant to lead his people to a promised home?
Tears came to my eyes as I recalled the final emotion-filled scene in the life of Joseph. Although he had been sold as a slave, God had elevated him to a position of second in command in Egypt, overseeing all of the Pharaoh’s public affairs.
Having rid themselves of this presumptuous young brother, the older brothers were certain that Joseph had died long ago, unable to survive in an alien country.
But God had a greater purpose for Joseph.
Now the brothers had come down to Egypt looking for food because an extended famine had depleted their food supply.
When they were brought to Joseph, they did not recognize him. As was appropriate for someone of such nobility, the brothers bowed down prostrate on the ground before this noble man.
On seeing his long-lost brothers, Joseph could not contain his joy. He wept as he revealed himself to his penitent brothers.
They sat speechless, fearful at the prospect of a once rejected brother now having the authority of life or death over them. But as Joseph embraced his brothers, he explained that it was God who had sent him to Egypt, ahead of his family, for the purpose of saving them from certain death.
I fell to my knees as I tried to comprehend the purpose of all that had happened since the birth of Jesus. He was the Messiah. Emanu-el; God was with us.
Would this favored son of God be rejected by his people? Would he be sold for a pittance?
Would he die, only to live again?
Was he leading those who would follow him to a new home? Would those who sold him out someday bow their knees to this exalted sovereign?
This Christmas may we, who once rejected him, bow in honor of the king of kings and the lord of lords.
BOB BLAND is a Denton resident.