Away in a Manger is definitely one of the most popular Christmas Carols of all time and perhaps for many of us, brings back loads of childhood memories. There has been a fair amount of debate on the origins of the carol, with initial thoughts suggesting it was the work of Martin Luther and was often referred to as Luther’s Cradle Song. However, it seems that most scholars now agree that the lyrics are not the words of Luther and may have to remain as anonymous. The music (tune) was the work of two men in the late 1800’s - William J. Kirkpatrick (1895) and James Ramsey Murray (1887). This version of the song is attributed to William Kirkpatrick’s adaption:
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on 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 take us to heaven to live with thee there.
Regardless of who the author is, I feel that the song offers us all a great deal of hope and it seeks to remind us to have a childlike faith in coming to Christ. Jesus is the ‘word made flesh’ and through his life we are given a glimpse of the nature of the Almighty! We can ask Jesus to be with us and to keep loving us throughout the complexities of our lives.
Having had 3 boys of our own, I am still not sure about the line ‘no crying he makes’! Although it was probably an attempt to show the divinity of the Christ-child, it would make all parents feel a lot better to know that even Jesus cried when he was an infant. If he wept when his friend, Lazarus died, I am sure that he cried when he was hungry and thirsty as a tiny baby.
What do you think?
Living in Grace