The Trumpet Sounds: ‘Away In The Manger’


By Barry Pettit - Religion Columnist



Childhood memories inescapably come to my mind each Christmas. One of my favorite Christmas Carols as a child was “Away in a Manger.” The song “Away In The Manger” was first published in a Lutheran Sunday School curriculum in 1885. Now, there’s a lot of controversy around who wrote the lyrics to this song. A lot of people think that it was Martin Luther, the father of the Great Reformation but no one really knows for sure.

So, there’s mystery as to who wrote the lyrics of this amazing song. But, there is no mystery that this song has touched hearts for decades and decades. This delightful lullaby still soothes my soul in unexpected ways. The term “lullaby” comes from the Swedish term “lulla,” meaning “an intermission or lull in the storm.” With three lively children in our family, my wife and I have always been grateful for any lull in the storm. My parents have often reminded me of what a lovely son I was when I was sleeping!

The inescapable season of Christmas is intended to be a lullaby, a lull in the storm of life. So often we wear ourselves out trying to do Christmas right. Without intending to, we spend too much, eat too much, and do too much. I am more and more convinced that the real key to a joyful Christmas is less, not more; slower, not faster. The heart of Christmas is simplicity. The heart of Christmas is a baby in a manger. When you think about the first Christmas, there was “no crib for a bed.” The cattle were Lowing, which is an ancient term for mooing and making a racket! No wonder “the Baby awakes.” I wonder how many mothers reading this article have had to give birth in a barn? I wonder how many modern-day moms ever used a feeding trough as a baby crib? Yet, that is what “Away in A Manger/Feeding Trough” meant on the very first Christmas day.

As I have stated, no one actually knows who wrote the words to this delightful carol. I often wonder if it was written by a stressed-out parent with a child under the age of 3. Life has taught me that sleep is a rare commodity for parents with babies. You just have to snatch a couple of hours in between feeding, cleaning and crying times. My hunch is that the author of “Away in a Manger” may have had the same desires when he wrote “But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.” The amazing thing about raising children is that after awhile the crying and wailing doesn’t traumatize you in the same way. I am not sure if that is because you suffer from hearing loss along the way. Either way, I am convinced that baby Jesus, being fully human as well as fully God, wailed and cried with the best of them. It wouldn’t surprise me if Mary and Joseph suffered from sleep deprivation, but we know they loved the little Lord Jesus regardless.

However, as a parent we experience something incredible as we look upon our sleeping baby. As our babies lay down their sweet heads, as the stars in the bright sky look down where they lay, something stirs within the most hardened heart. Babies are worth the sacrifice. Babies are worth the investment. No wonder God became a baby at Christmas. God stole our hearts by turning up “away in a manger.”

As a young child I used to sing: “I love you Lord Jesus, look down from the sky and stay by my bedside till morning is nigh.” I meant it when I sang: “Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay close by me forever, and love me, I pray.” But as I became older, my heart hardened. I had forgotten who that baby was, and as a result I lived many years without peace and purpose. It wasn’t until I opened my heart back to God that “Away In The Manger” once again spoke purpose in my life. So now I can sing “The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.” You see, He is my savior and my Lord.

Remember this Christmas that if you are a Christian He is your Lord as well. That means He is the author and ruler of our lives. No matter what you’re facing He is there shining in the darkness just like He did that night away in the manger. In the words of the angel in Luke 2:10-11 “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” This Sunday at South Side we will further examine this wonderful carol, and talk about how it impacts our lives. Worship begins at 10:45, and we would love to have you and your family lift high the wonderful name of name of Jesus with us!

In Christ,

Barry Pettit

Lead Minister

South Side Church of Christ

www.southsidewch.com

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By Barry Pettit

Religion Columnist