Away in a Manger comes from the late 19th century, and though it remains one of America’s favorite carols, the fact of its authorship is murky and disputed.
Christmas is a wonderful mix of holy and humble. A young unwed mother gave birth to the long-awaited Messiah. The angels appeared in bright and fearsome array to simple shepherds. The wise men brought precious gifts to the Christ child, whose first bed was a livestock trough. God chose to reveal His glory in these circumstances, to these people. What does it mean?
It means that God came down. He is high and lifted up; we are poor and lowly. It’s enough that God became a man. He felt pain and hunger and exhaustion. And despite the song’s assertions, he wept. But Jesus also came to us as the son of a carpenter, born in the stable of a crowded city, born into the perceived shame of Mary’s pregnancy before marriage to Joseph, visited by shepherds, and hunted by Herod. He chose what was lowly, in order that he might reveal a true glory that transcends the fleeting and paltry veneer of human wisdom, or beauty, or success. We should only ever boast in Christ. He is the God who came down, so that we could be made righteous in him.
Scriptures to consider:
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. 1 John 3:1a
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 fit us for heaven to live with thee there.