Christmas,  Musings

The Sweetest Carol

I’ve often heard it said that “Away in a Manger” is not a favorable Christmas carol because it’s not perfectly theologically sound.

“Little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes”? That’s wrong! He was a baby! He was fully God and fully man! Of course He cried!

Yes, of course Jesus cried as a baby. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy singing this lovely carol. To those who refuse this song due to reasons such as that noted above, I say this: Step off your prideful perch and get over yourself.

“Away in a Manger” is essentially a lullaby. It is sweet, soft, and brings to mind the compassion, gentleness, and love of our Savior for His children. One website notes that, “The original two-stanza form probably originated among German Lutherans in Pennsylvania about 1885.” This website goes on, saying,

[M]ost sources note that the hymn first appeared with two stanzas in Little Children’s Book for Schools and Families, a Sunday school collection published in 1885 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America. 


This song is on my mind today because of its significance in my own life. I remember singing this as a very young child in Christmas pageants at church. Standing there dressed as an angel, I know now that I completely garbled the second verse. The song says, “The cattle are lowing…” Me? I sang, “The cattum are mowing.” It may have been wrong and completely nonsensical, but I’m sure it was adorable.

The song has far more significance for me than this, though. You see, this song was sung at the funerals of two people who were significant in my life.

I barely remember the first funeral. It was for a young boy in my church who died in a tragic accident. A couple years older than me, he always made sure he brought me a chocolate donut on Sunday mornings. I’m told he was a sweet, caring boy. I’ve long wished I could remember more about him. Joshua loved Christmas carols, so we sang them as we said goodbye.

By contrast, I vividly remember the other funeral where this song was sung. It was held on December 26, 2002 and it was for my grandfather. He died a few days earlier, on December 21. Grandpa loved Christmas, so it was only fitting that we sing carols at the celebration of his life. Christmas hasn’t been the same since my grandfather passed away. Neither has “Away in a Manger.” When I sing it now, I do so with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes. What a blessed thought to know my grandfather is celebrating yet another Christmas with Jesus.

May the sweet tones and endearing lyrics of this carol bring you a bit of joy today.

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