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Origin of the beloved Christmas Carol, "Away in a Manger!"

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Often we look to individuals for their accomplishments and want to give them full due for their work be it art, music, and even architecture.

It just makes the object more interesting and appealing to know the story behind the one who created it.

However, many times wonderful works of art, music, and other forms of creativity goes without the benefit of knowing just who was the author or the creator.

One of the most famous Christmas Carols – most often sung by little children – has a mysterious origin.

How often do we find ourselves singing a little song that we make up as we go along? We might wake up and see the sunshine, hear the birds singing in the trees; and we feel good. Perhaps that is how the author of the famous James Brown song felt when he wrote the words to that immortal song – “I feel good!”

Away in a Manger,” could have (and probably was) written by several different people. And this little song just has a way of making us “feel good!”

There does not seem to be any information as to who wrote the first two stanzas; but there are those who give credit to Martin Luther for writing the last two.

A song book that was published in 1885 by the Lutheran Sunday School, which was compiled by James R. Murray (1841-1905) gave the subtitle to this little song as “Luther’s Cradle.”

Then it seems the third verse was written by John T. McFarland in 1904.

“The beloved children's Christmas Carol is generally sung to one of two melodies. In the U.S. the most popular tune is Mueller, while the United Kingdom prefers the melody of Cradle Song.”

“Whatever the refrain, whichever of the variations and/or whomever is the true composer, there can be no doubt that this sweet song is a favorite of children and adults alike.” Source:

Most adults will probably look back and remember this was the very first Christmas carol that they learned. While a simple little song, it speaks volumes of what happened so long ago in that sleepy little town of Bethlehem.

While truly a song about the birth of the Christ child – it is so much more and perhaps that is why Martin Luther called it the “Cradle Song!” It is a lullaby often sung to children to help them fall asleep and it is certainly a prayer or petition asking that Jesus will look over the sleeping child.

Away in a Manger

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 'til 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.

There have been several variations of the song, including one or more of the following:

“Since there was so many contributing to this little song there are also some variations.

“The first line of the 1st verse - exchange 'no crib for a bed' for 'no room for his head'

The third line of the 1st verse - omit the word 'bright' or exchange 'bright' for 'night'

The first line of the 2nd verse - exchange 'the baby awakes' for 'the Babe awakes' or add the word 'poor' and remove the ('The poor baby wakes')

The last line of the 2nd verse - exchange 'stay by my cradle 'til' for either 'stay by my bed until' or 'stay by my bedside 'til'

The last line of the 3rd verse - exchange 'And take us to Heaven' for either 'And fit us for Heaven' or 'And throw us to Heaven.”

However the facts are that Jesus was born in a manger since there was no room for Him in the inn; and that He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and the world was changed because of His birth. In this little song, He goes from being that baby to the Savior of the world. Thousands upon thousands – hundred thousands of mothers down through the centuries have prayed to the Savior for protection and love of their own babies.

“She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7 NIV)

The photo in this article is attributed to Rene Bidez who is an accredited photographer in Fayetteville, Georgia. His studio is located across from the old county courthouse and on the corner of a four way intersection. Most every automobile will have to stop at the light and that gives them the time to admire this beautiful nativity in one window and in the next a cross wrapped like a gift – the greatest gift the world has ever seen.

God gives us many opportunities to share His love through art, music, ministries and even photography. We need but seek ways to glorify Him.

You may wish to look at some of his work at this site: His studio is located at 103 Glenn Street, Fayetteville, Georgia 30214 – you can e-mail him at bidezphoto@bellsouth.net

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