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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Away in a Manger

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The shepherds had an angel
The wise men had a star
But what have I, a little child,
To guide me home from far,
Where glad stars sing together
And singing angels are?
Christ watches me, His little lamb,
Cares for me day and night,
That I may be His own in heaven;
So angels clad in white
Shall sing their "Glory, glory,"
For my sake in the height.

-Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

No Christmas song is more loved than this tender children's carol, "Away in a Manger." With its simply worded expression of love for the Lord Jesus and trust in His faithful care, the hymn appeals to young and old alike. It is usually one of the first Christmas songs learned in early childhood; yet its pleasing melody and gentle message preserve it in our affections all through life.

For some time "Away in the Manger" was titled "Luther's Cradle Hymn." It was thought to have been written by Martin Luther for his own children and then passed on by German mothers. Modern research discounts this claim, however. Stanzas one and two first appeared in the Little Children's Book, published in Philadelphia in 1885. The third verse was written by a Methodist minister, John T. McFarland, in the early 1900s when an additional stanza for this carol was desired for use at a church children's day program.

How important it is that we take time to help our children see beyond the glitter of the Christmas season and teach them the true meaning of Christ's birth. The most thrilling story ever known to man began in Bethlehem at Christmas.

"Away in a manger, no crib for a 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 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 fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there."

Excerpt from Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions, copyright © 1984 Kenneth W. Osbeck. Used with permission.

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