It is customary in choirs for people to ask questions on behalf of their section. “The altos,” we’ll say, “need to hear measure 19,” or “Can you play the tenor line after the fermata? We’re confused.”

So it was not surprising when Miss M said, “We’re confused about page 2.” But someone contradicted her. “Those of us who’ve been drinking,” she corrected herself, “are confused.”

We were singing “Jubilate Deo” in church choir. Since you might have been drinking, I will offer you an entirely different song, the modern carol, “Guard Him, Joseph” by Sally Deford.

Guard him, Joseph, as he slumbers,
There behind the stable doors
Let no errant sound distress him,
Tread thou softly on the floor
Linger watchful round the manger;
Hhush thy voice and still the beasts
For thou hast within thy keeping
Christ, the infant Prince of Peace

Guard him, Joseph, through the darkness;
Watching o’er him till the dawn
Bid the shepherds enter meekly,
Sstand in wonder, gaze in awe
Trim thy lamp and shield thy candle;
See they burn all through the night
For thou hast within thy keeping
Christ, the everlasting Light

Guard him, Joseph, from all danger;
Keep thy vigil nigh his bed
Let no harm nor grief befall him;
Stand thou in a father’s stead
When his mother’s arms be weary,
Hold him gently as thine own
For thou hast within thy keeping
God’s own well-beloved Son.

You can get free sheet music for this piece in many different keys and arrangements, so you can tune up the guitar or the piano and sing it with whoever happens to visit you this Christmas. The choir below is singing the arrangement we’re singing in church, and they sound confused occasionally, though they look too young to have been drinking.

Sally Deford is an American composer, born in Oregon and now living in Colorado. She has a nice blog.

Her publisher’s site says that “Sally loves to tread anything she can get her hands on.” I spent a surprising amount of time trying to make sense of this. I thought maybe she was a dancer, or that she made wine absolutely from scratch. Then I noticed that she went to BYU and thought perhaps it was a Mormon custom.

At last I realized, as my readers will doubtless have done long ago, that she reads everything she can get her hands on, which is something else entirely.

This is a sweet song, whether you’ve been drinking or not.