22 MORE DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS!
The first two verses of this song was first published in 1885 in the book Little Children’s Book for Schools and Families which was part of collection of Sunday School materials for Evangelical Lutheran Sunday Schools. The music was a tune credited to J.E. Clark. While the words are sometimes attributed to Martin Luther, he did not write the original verses. The final verse was first printed in 1892 in Gabriel’s Vineyard Songs and was probably written by Charles H. Gabriel.
Commentary & Analysis
This entire carol is built around one verse in the Bible which states:
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. [Luke 2:7 ESV]
The hay, the cows, the sheep and other mainstays of the modern manger seen are not specifically mentioned in the biblical account. There is one line in the second verse which states “little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.” At the risk of reading more into the verse than was originally intended, it is important to remember that, while God, Jesus was also in all ways human. Despite this, he did not sin and was, therefore, able to pay the price for our sins on the cross. The Bible does not indicate that Jesus never cried as an infant, indeed it tells us very little about his life as a baby or child. While many over the years have assumed this to be the case – that Jesus must not have cried as a baby because he was God – there is no biblical support for that notion.
The final verse of this carol constitutes a prayer that Jesus would stay close forever, bless the children, and take us to heaven to live with him. All three of these requests are supported by Scripture. James 4:8 tells us that God does indeed draw near to us:
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. [James 4:8a ESV]
Mark 10 tells about the time that Jesus did bless the children and indicates that children hold a special place in Jesus’ heart:
And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. [Mark 10:13-16 ESV]
Finally in John 14, Jesus confirms that those he has chosen and those that have accepted him will go to be with Jesus forever:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” [John 14:1-4 ESV]
Questions for further Reflection / Devotion
The following questions are meant for your reflection and or devotion. Feel free to meditate on them, discuss them with your family or others or post your responses here. I would love to hear from you.
- Have a look at a manger seen today and try to pick out the unbiblical, or extra-biblical, features in the widely accepted seen.
- Jesus has a particular place in his heart for kids. How do you balance the gift-giving that is part of the season with making sure that kids understand that it is really about Jesus and the gift he gave us.
- Do you believe that you will see Jesus in heaven when you die? If so, what are you looking forward to the most about heaven? If not, what do you think happens when you die?
- Why do you suppose God chose to come the first time the way he did – in a lowly manger amongst the animals?
- The Bible says draw near to God and he will draw near to you. What can you do this Christmas season to draw near to God.
Away in a manger, no crib for his 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 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