A Way in a Manger

Note: I re-worked the devotion “Away in a Manger” into a sermon for the St. Matthew Lutheran – Hawthorn Woods’ Sunday School Christmas Service. – Ed

A Manger Memory

This morning brings back one of my earliest memories – of singing Away in a Manger at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Round Lake, Illinois as a little boy. I, too, memorized the hymn and sang it in the children’s Christmas service. 

What would Christmas be without this Christmas carol?


Photo by 
Walter Chávez on Unsplash

Away in a Manger has somewhat mysterious origins. While some think that Martin Luther himself wrote the hymn and sang it as a Christmas Eve lullaby to his children way back in the early 1500’s, that’s probably a legend and not fact.

The first notice of Away in a Manger comes to us from James R. Murray who found it not long after the U.S. Civil War in a book of German hymns published by the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America.

There are two distinct tunes that this carol is sung to, the one we are using today credited to James R. Murray. And “Cradle Song,” a tune by Scotsman William J. Kirkpatrick.

The Message

But where this Christmas carol comes from is not nearly as important as the truth it tells so beautifully.

It is the Christmas story from Luke 2. Jesus is born of Mary,placed in a feeding trough in a stable because there was no room for them in the inn.

Humble beginnings for the Savior of mankind, who would grow up to be a humble man, but powerful and willing to lay down his life to save us from our sins.

For just a moment, I’d like to look at the title of our Christmas carol.

Away in a Manger

Looked at one way, it is about an event that happened a long time ago in a land far, far away. Which, from our perspective in Hawthorn Woods in 2018 is very true! Jesus was born over 2000 years ago over 6000 miles away.

Truly Away in a manger!

But let’s look at this from a different perspective.

Today, you are most likely here to hear your child or grandchild help lead the worship service. You are here to hear and sing familiar Christmas songs. You are here to hear the familiar story that most of us remember starting out as

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed”

Luke 2:1

and includes the very familiar lines,

“And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. The angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”

Luke 2:9-14

Is This All There Is?

But is this all this service and season is all about? Children reciting familiar lines and singing familiar songs?

Could there be more that meets the eye?

Perhaps you are hurting this Christmas. This will be the first Christmas without your husband or wife or son or daughter. Or this is yet another Christmas spent without that person you spent so many Christmases with.

Are your relationships not what they should be,what you’d hope they could be? Are you feuding, fighting, or fuming with someone?

Maybe you are cynical about the whole season. After all, the crass commercialism ruins what used to be the most wonderful time of the year.

Also, the venomous incivility paraded before our eyes each day on our screens has made us, at best, apathetic, even at this time of year.

If only there were a way out of all this pain, sorrow, commercialism, and vitriol.

I’ve got good news for you!

There is a way!

That way is in the manger!

Last weekend, Pastor Kinne reminded us – and encouraged us – that John the Baptizer was sent ahead of Jesus to prepare the way. (You can see his sermon here.)

He also encouraged us in these days leading up to Christmas to put our faith in the One who is the way, the truth and the life. In Jesus Christ who died to forgive all our sins and rose again from the dead to give us eternal life.

Jesus is the way in the manger, where his earthly life and ministry started so long ago in a land far, far away.

A Way in a Manger

I pray that you will be comforted and find the true peace and joy in the familiar story and songs of Christmas, especially Away in a Manger. Amen.

The original devotion is taken from the book Music From the Manger – volume six in the “In My Father’s Footsteps” series. Paperback can be found here. Kindle edition here.

© 2018 True Men Ministries

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