Away in a Manger
In 1887, American hymn writer James R. Murray In his popular songbook, Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses, stated that Martin Luther had not only written “Away in a Manger,” but had sung it to his children each night before bed. And he called the tune “Luther’s Cradle Hymn.”
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
the little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head;
the stars in the heavens looked down where He lay,
the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.
German mothers of this era did not sing “Away in a Manger” to their children. And they had never heard it until the song arrived in Europe from its country of origin, the United States. Most people did not question it for many years due to his solid reputation.
Murray was likely getting his information from either the Congregationalist newspaper or from the Sailor’s Magazine and Seamans Friend. Both preceded Murray’s printing of this carol. It may have been from the Congregationalist that the attribution to Luther was misapplied.
The actual origin remains a mystery.
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 side until morning is nigh.
Away In A Manger centers around the newborn Jesus as he lays in a manger; the lyrics call out for Jesus to “be near me.” I love the relationship between lines from each song “Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart” and “Be near me, Lord Jesus; I ask Thee to stay.”
This hymn of multiple tunes and questionable origins mirrors our mortal, sinful life. But, unfortunately, none of us have lived through this life unblemished by sin and sorrow.
“The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Peace is an interesting concept. The people of Israel were not in a state of peace when Christ was born, far from it. They were in a state of oppression. That is why the line from Luke, “that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed,” is so important. It shows how the fear of the Romans would make a new father take his pregnant wife across the desert just for a census.
Mahatma Gandhi talked of peace when he said:
“peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it.”
- Mahatma Gandhi
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
When Christ came into the world, he did not remove its strife. Instead, what he did was provide a way to overcome it.
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.