"Away in a Manger" may be the first Christmas song a child learns. While it may be considered a "children's song," it is still a favorite for many during this special season.
This post is the second in a little series on the history of some favorite Christmas hymns. (See here for the first post.) The following is from Robert J. Morgan's "Near to the Heart of God - Meditations on 366 Best-Loved Hymns."
"For years, everyone assumed Martin Luther had written this carol; in songbooks it was usually subtitled 'Luther's Cradle Hymn.' According to tradition, the Reformer had written this hymn, which consisted of only two stanzas at the time, for his little son, Hans.
"We now believe the first two stanzas of 'Away in a Manger' came from an anonymous German Lutheran in Pennsylvania, not from Luther himself. We also know who added the tender third verse that begins, 'Be near me, Lord Jesus.' It was John T. McFarland, who was born January 2, 1851, in Mount Vernon, Indiana, and passed away on the morning of December 22, 1913, at his home in Maplewood, New Jersey.
"McFarland was a Sunday school leader and children's worker whose life's mission was to nurture children in the instruction of the Lord. It was McFarland who introduced graded instruction to American Sunday schools. How fitting that he would complete the most famous children's Christmas carol of all time."
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 you Lord Jesus; look down from the sky
And stay by my side until morning is nigh.
Be near me Lord Jesus I ask you to stay
Close by me for ever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in your tender care,
And fit us for heaven, to live with you there.