“Away in a Manger”

David Bast

READ : Romans 8:18–25, 28–30

. . . predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. (v. 29)

No one really knows who wrote this carol, which began appearing in American hymnals in the late 1800s. It’s sometimes attributed to Martin Luther, perhaps because Luther loved Christmas and he loved children, and he wrote a lot of good songs.

One of the problems with Christmas is that it can easily become too sentimental. This can even happen when we focus on the Christmas story. It’s about peace and love, and the warmth of the stable, and the animals there with Joseph and Mary, and—“Why, look at that. The baby doesn’t even cry when he wakes up.” I’m pretty sure baby Jesus did cry when he woke up, cold and hungry and lying in a cattle trough, just as I’m sure that Mary felt the pains of childbirth and groaned literally, as Paul says our fallen creation does metaphorically.

But even in a sentimental carol like “Away in a Manger” we are reminded of the very unsentimental work Jesus has come to do.

Bless all the dear children

in Thy tender care,

And fit us for heaven,

to live with Thee there.

Jesus came to make us like himself. His redemptive project is also transformative. We will be transformed until we are conformed to his image, and the creation will be transformed until all traces of evil have been wiped away. Then we will be fit for heaven, and heaven will be fit for us.


Bless all of us children, Lord Jesus.