Away in a manger, no crib for his bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head. The stars in the sky look down where he lay, the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.
This beloved children’s carol has been used for Christmastide worship services since its creation in the nineteenth-century. The legend is that Martin Luther had a hand in its writing, but scholars now believe it was likely created in America and from there spread to the rest of the English-speaking world.
Even within my own family this song has a place near to our hearts as it was my niece’s favorite lullaby as a young child. We sang it to her in the more familiar American tune, Mueller. Though in England, they use the tune “cradle song,” still harkening back to its supposedly Lutheran origins.
What is wondrous about this hymn is its ability to gently set the scene for even the youngest believers. You can almost hear the animals gently making noises and see the Christ-child quietly listening to his surroundings. For even small children, this is a scene with which they can personally connect.
However, the best part of the song is the third verse, which was written long after the first two. It was written to be added to a children’s production and has stuck ever since. It is here, in this final verse, that we see our role in the story – our place in the scene so beautifully set.
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.