Every year the Christmas story rolls around and we often wonder what part Joseph played in the divine narrative. He went from trying to quietly reject Mary to being by her side for the entire cosmic experience. From all accounts, once Joseph was in, he was all in. And given the dangers of childbirth, particularly for an unwed mother, it is not too much to say that Joseph was crucial to the Christmas story. Of course, I knew all of this already. And perhaps you did too. But last Christmas Eve, I experienced it in more powerful a way than ever.

Because last December 24th, a Joseph stepped in and saved our Christmas too.

When my clergy husband got home from Christmas Eve services last year, the rest of us were in bed, asleep. Or so I thought. Sometime around 1am he came bursting into our room proclaiming that our three-year-old daughter “could not breathe.” Having been through asthma with our son, we did all of the usual things. I stood in the hot shower with her. We gave her all of the medicine we knew to give. I smothered her little chest with Vick’s vapor rub. But none of it was working and she was starting to turn blue. And so for the first time in our family’s history we had to call an ambulance.

Blessedly, the ambulance arrived quickly. The EMTs did an amazing job, and she was already breathing better before they even left our house. But she was going to need to go to the Emergency Room, so my husband climbed into the ambulance and off they went.

About 45 seconds later I realized that they would not have a safe way to get home. With no car and no car seat, they could be stuck at the hospital on Christmas morning. So I did what any modern mother would do, I put out a kind of “all call” on social media: Is anyone awake in West Houston? Can anyone take a car seat to the hospital? I assumed that if I could get my husband a car seat, then he and our daughter could catch a cab home that morning.

I was thinking that one of my mom friends in the area would reach out. Someone had to be up doing some elf work somewhere. But that is not what happened.

Within 3 minutes my friend Joseph texted me back. It was a cold night, so with a touch of humor he wrote, “I’m putting on my bomber jacket from high school and I’ll be there ASAP.”

Joseph is a single guy that lives a solid 25 minutes from our house. He is a “paid member” of our church choir. Meaning, he is not an official member of our church. And besides our shared affinity for Gospel music and the entire Sister Act franchise, he’s not exactly what you’d call an all-in believer. I’ve heard him say on more than one occasion with a gleam in his eye, “Oh girl, I’m paid to be here.” And who could blame him? He grew up in a more stringent denomination in East Texas. And he is understandably not warm and fuzzy about church.

It is also worth noting that as a member of the choir, Joseph had been at almost as many services as my husband had been at that Christmas Eve. In fact, he was awake because he had just gotten home. And yet here he was, hauling you-know-what out to my house to take a car seat to my people in the middle of the night.

Only, that is not all he did.

He carried the car seat into the ER and found my husband and daughter curled up together on a hospital bed. Our daughter was much better. But they were both exhausted. So Joseph quietly took a seat in the room with them and waited.

The thing you should know about breathing issues and children is that they are often given a steroid that immediately opens their lungs up. And so while our daughter was initially exhausted, the medicine coursing through her little veins began to perk her up. And so while my husband dozed a bit, “Mr. Joseph” and Annie chatted about unicorns, how she felt better, and her beloved lion. Joseph stayed all night with those two loves of my life. And sometime early the next morning, he put our daughter’s car seat in his car and he brought them home.

At some point on Christmas Day, I mentioned to my sleepy husband how kind it was for Joseph to drop off the car seat. I had not understood that he had stayed at the hospital that night. When my husband told me the full extent of his care for us, I reached out to Joseph to thank him.

And his words back to me, funny as they were, cut right to the heart of Christmas. He said, “Well of course I stayed. What kind of a Joseph would I be if I didn’t help out a lady in need on Christmas Eve?”

Like the Joseph of the nativity story, our Joseph knew when he was called to be a part of things, when he was called to help. And he did.

We miss out on a whole world of goodness when we classify people as believers or not believers, those who belong versus those who do not, people who are worthy (like anyone really is) of God’s incredible love as opposed to people who are unworthy.

Hell, I think we might miss out on the entire point of Christmas.

This year our own St. Joseph is having Christmas Day dinner with our family. Because he saved us last Christmas. And the nativity would be incomplete without him.