Today’s Carol of Comfort & Joy is often called “Luther’s cradle hymn” after appearing in a Lutheran children’s hymnal in 1885. While not actually where it came from, the name stuck for “Away in a Manger” and still appears like that in writing today.
The three-stanza song comes from Appalachia, with the original two stanzas in Lutheran hymnals in a Pennsylvania church and a brochure in 1882. It was published again and again with a similar story, that it was sung by Martin Luther to his children. The third stanza appeared ten years later in a musical collection. Even with this story attached, nowadays this carol is considered completely and totally American-made – the original and the numerous variations of every line.
Like “Silent Night”, “Away in a Manger” takes us right to the heart of Jesus’ birth. As He lays in the manger where His mother had Him swaddled, the lyrics sing praise to the baby boy and ask that Jesus keep close to us in our own cradles. The last verse also asks that Jesus care for all the little children of the world – that they might also be kept safe and taken to Heaven with Jesus “to live with thee there””.
Did you know? There are two melodies for “Away in a Manger”: one created in the UK and Ireland, and the other in the US. Hear the version you know best, sung by Ember Academy, by clicking below: