Away In A Manger

Away in a manger,
No crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus
Lays down His sweet head,

The stars in the bright sky
Look 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 side
Until 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.

One of the great things about Christmas is the singing of carols. The growing anticipation of the Big Day usually starts on the first Sunday in December when the first carols make it into the church services and Sunday schools. If the first Sunday isn’t going to be until 6th or 7th of December the vicar might slip one into the service on 29th or 30th November: a bit unconventional, but how else will they all be fitted in?

The first problem with carols is that there are so many of them that are good. The really popular ones would be sung more than once, so it would be hard to sing them all every year. If you just attended the Christmas Eve or Christmas Day services you’d get some of the ‘big hitters’, but if you were a carol junkie – and there were plenty of us back then – then you could count on us being at both morning and evening services every week for the four (usually) Sundays in December before Christmas just in case we didn’t miss our favourite inadvertently.

And the other problem with carols is that everyone has their own favourites so there’s no consensus on what the ‘big hitters’ really are. In anyone’s personal top ten you’ll probably find that about half of them are drawn from a pool of about a dozen popular carols, but after that everyone seems to have their own idiosyncratic favourites. Anyway – let’s celebrate our favourite Christmas carols in a Carol Advent Calendar: one new carol a day, every day until Christmas.

Away In A Manger is probably the first carol we learn off by heart; it’s a Sunday School favourite and we sang it in school assemblies too. Not unsurprisingly, it’s sometimes known as Martin Luther’s Cradle Song even though the likelihood of it having been written by him is improbable. It seems that in its current form it originated in the USA in the 1880s and versions were being sung in the UK from the 1890s onwards: it’s German in origin, but the last eight lines were added in the 1880s and aren’t usually sung in German versions today.

If you find the day getting tough then take a moment to sing Away In A Manger to yourself. If should help to restore a little calm. Merry Christmas.

Header Photo of Manger by Chris Sowder on Unsplash

Illustration: The Birth of Jesus by Gustave Doré