In an empty space in a remote corner of the garage, Joe wanted to apologize to his wife, but he knew it would only make her feel worse if he did. So, he blinked back his tears of frustration and began trying to make a satisfactory nest out of his jacket and other clothes from the suitcase. Mary sank into it, put her head on his lap, and fell asleep. Joe sighed, leaned back against the cement wall, and soon was asleep himself.
Several hours later Joe was awakened by the grip of his wife’s fingers clenched around his forearm. “Joseph!” she was gasping, “It’s time! It’s happening!”
Joe had been sleeping just well enough to be completely disoriented by this wake-up call. “It’s what?” he responded foggily, a heartbeat before the realization hit him. “Oh! Oh!” was his second response, and he sat up, still cradling Mary’s head in his lap. “Ok, ok,” he kept repeating, trying to get his brain up to speed. “Ok. What should I do?”
“I—don’t—know,” said Mary evenly between gasps. “I—don’t—know.”
“Do you—should I—do you want me to try and find a doctor?” was Joe’s nervous question.
“No—don’t—leave—me!” came the clenched-teeth answer.
And so the couple began a new struggle—Mary breathing and pushing, Joe encouraging and holding, both murmuring frantic prayers to a God whose timing seemed to be way off.
All alone in a Chicago parking garage.
When the turmoil was over, several hours later, exhaustion and peace settled over that corner of the garage. Mary still lay on Joe’s coat, completely spent. Joe sat next to her, his eyes shining. In his arms he cradled their new baby boy. His heart nearly burst with the wonder of it all.
He didn’t know how many minutes or hours he had spent gazing at his tiny son, but at some point he heard a truck roll up and then stop. The doors slammed as two men in worn, blue coveralls stepped out and removed greasy caps from their heads. Joe read the name patches sewn above their breast pockets, but the stitched script letters held no clue as to where these men had come from, or why. Somehow they did not seem surprised to find a newborn among the Broncos, Rams, and Mustangs.
In fact, they seemed spellbound at the sight of the baby, and they didn’t move any closer until Joe greeted them. “His name’s Josh,” he said, clearing his throat and motioning them over.
They knelt on the oil-spotted floor next to Joe and peered into the baby’s face. Joe had never seen such coarse-looking men take such interest in an infant. Their eyes were round with wonder, and the few words they spoke were only throaty whispers.
As Joe watched one of the strangers touch the t-shirt his son was wrapped in, he began to understand something, though he couldn’t put words to it. He could sense a larger purpose, and he was overwhelmed at the small part he had been invited to play in a grand story. His frustration at the dusty bus ride, the pointless convention, the broken bottles and cigarette stubs on the floor of the parking garage—it all melted away and became a glistening backdrop for the story of the unfolding relationship between this baby and this mechanic. A man unaware that something was broken in his life was finding redemption in the touch of a child.
When the baby wrapped his small, white hand around the mechanic’s thick, stained finger, the man gasped and nearly cried.
And Joe too shed tears, and breathed a prayer of wordless thanks.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11, NIV)