Today’s Bible reading
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. — Matthew 18:1-5
More thoughts for meditation
In 1887 an American hymn writer, James R. Murray, wrote the tune for the children’s hymn “Away in a Manger.” At that time he titled the song, “Luther’s Cradle Hymn” and published the story that it was written by Martin Luther and that Luther sang the song to his children each night before bed. The idea of Luther and hundreds of German parents singing this song to their children really spread; however, it wasn’t true. The song is purely American, written by an anonymous author (some say a man named, J.E. Clark) sometime in the mid-1800s. Charles Hutchinson Gabriel has been named as the author of the third verse. But because of Murray’s strong reputation as an accomplished hymnist, the story of Luther’s authorship stuck. By 1945 when the U.S. was battling Germany again in WWII, more research was done about the origins of the song. Richard Hill claimed that Murray himself wrote the song, but that’s been disputed since Murray usually claimed credit for songs he wrote. It’s unlike he would have deferred credit to Luther. More guessing has suggested that Murray probably got the story about Luther from whoever gave him the song. Murray adapted the German-influenced tune into four part harmony and published it.
Regardless of origin, this song is a wonderful reminder of Jesus, the impoverished baby who comes to us as our Infant King. Jesus turns the world upside-down and changes how we think about power and achieving greatness. It’s a favorite of children all around the world and even if Luther never sang it to his children, many of us have sung it to our own.
Suggestions for action
Away in a Manger, perhaps more than any other Christmas carol, is for children and for the child in all of us. Listen again to this version with young voices and remember that Jesus calls us to a child-like trust in God alone. Tell him you trust him and love him. Tell him of your longing for him to watch over you. Ask him to stay.
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