Friday, March 23, 2018

Christmas Devotion: Away In a Manger


As a way of saying “Thank You” for your partnership and friendship, Heart of God International is sharing with you a Christmas Meditation based on a different Christmas Carol each morning from now until Christmas Day.  We pray you will be blessed as you enjoy a few minutes of reflection during this busy season of celebration and remembrance! God bless you this Christmas!


Freedom In The Manger  


Probably one of the first songs little children are taught during this season is “Away in a Manger“. I can remember as a little girl singing this with my class in front of the entire church, each of us stepping out of the choir to say our verse while we recited the entire account of the birth of the Lord Jesus from the Gospel of Luke. It was something we looked forward to each year, singing the sweet lullaby about Baby Jesus and saying our memory verses.


Although some believe this carol was penned by Martin Luther, German religious reformer and author of a number of beautiful hymns, it is almost certainly of late 19th century American origin. Verses 1 and 2 appeared anonymously in Little Children’s Book for Schools and Families, by J. C. File, Philadelphia, 1885, and verse 3 is by John Thomas McFarland (1851-1913). The tune most used is the ‘Cradle song’ by American Gospel song writer W. J. Kirkpatrick (1838-21).



Away In a Manger


Away in a manger, no crib for His bed,  The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head;
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep in the hay.


The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes. But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes.
I love thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky.
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.


Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay,
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray!
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care
And fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there.

While the song, unlike so many we’ve highlighted these past few days, does not convey the Gospel in song, it tells of the tender newborn Christ-Child who has captured the love and adoration of generations of children and adults alike. Not because He was a baby born in unfortunate circumstances, but because this Child was God in the flesh come to redeem mankind from the curse of sin and death.


The mere mention of His name, the name of Jesus, works to tenderize even the hardest heart during this season. While we could list the pro’s and con’s of celebrating Christmas in December or celebrating it at all, the fact remains that during this time of year we are given a freedom to share the blessed truth of our Savior’s birth with most anyone and they are more apt to be open to listen.


Let’s take advantage of this season. There are so many ways you can express your love and adoration of this Christ-Child by sharing His life and death and everlasting reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. Don’t be timid! Teach the children the name of Jesus by using simple little songs like “Away in a Manger” and then teach them Who they’re singing about. Recount the last two lines of the last verse: “Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there.” What better way to be “fit for heaven” than to share the WHOLE story of Jesus and His love. What better way to fit others for heaven than to share openly about the Jesus who they see lying in a manger.


Lord, every time I hear a Christmas song, help me remember that it is an invitation from You to speak into the lives of those around me. Teach me to be bold and to not hide my love for You regardless where I am or what I’m doing. If I’m in the store, at work, at home, at a party or get-together, wherever it may be, help me to tell the Good News, that You might be glorified, amen! 


“. . .and received all that came in unto him,
preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things
which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence,
no man forbidding him.”
(Acts 28:30-31)



© Jan Ross

All Rights Reserved

“Away in a Manger” is a Christmas carol first published in the late nineteenth century and used widely throughout the English-speaking world. In Britain it is one of the most popular carols, a 1996 Gallup Poll ranking it joint second. The first two verses of the lyrics were published in the May 1884 issue of The Myrtle, a periodical of the Universalist Publishing House in Boston, Massachusetts.[2] The article claims, under the heading “Luther’s Cradle Song”, that “Martin Luther, the great German reformer, who was born four hundred years ago the 10th of next November, composed the following hymn for his children; and it is still sung by many German mothers to their little ones.” As noted above, the earliest known publication, in The Myrtle, ascribed the lyrics to German Protestant reformer Martin Luther, explicitly referencing his 400th birthday (which was in 1883). For many years this attribution continued to be made: for example Dainty songs for little lads and lasses for use in the kindergarten, school and home, by James R. Murray, (Cincinnati, The John Church Co., 1887) repeats The Myrtle’s title of “Luther’s Cradle Hymn” and the claim that it was “[c]omposed by Martin Luther for his children, and still sung by German mothers to their little ones”. However, this attribution appears to be false: the hymn is found nowhere among Luther’s works. It has been suggested that the words were written specifically for Luther’s 400th anniversary and then credited to the reformer as a marketing gimmick. The third stanza, “Be near me, Lord Jesus” was first printed in Gabriel’s Vineyard Songs (1892), where it appeared with a tune by Charles H. Gabriel (simply marked “C”), thus these words are probably by Gabriel. Gabriel credited the entire text to Luther and gave it the title “Cradle Song.” This verse is sometimes attributed to Dr. John McFarland, but since the popular story dates his contribution to 1904 (postdating the 1892 printing by 12 years), his contribution is highly questionable.


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