Away in a Manger
Part four of a series on Christmas songs
‘This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
(Luke 2:12 NIVUK)
It seems to me that whoever wrote Away in a Manager1 wrote it before they had children of their own. One verse reads:
The cattle are lowing [mooing]
The poor Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes
Hold on a minute, ‘No crying He makes’? Real newborn babies cry. In fact, they yell their heads off; it’s a healthy sign. If we are to understand what happened in Bethlehem, we must believe that when the baby wakes there is a cry from the manger, because that is what Christmas means at its very core.
Think of the story of Superman. The baby born on the disintegrating planet Krypton is sent by his parents to earth in a space capsule. The boy grows up as Clark Kent, a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet, and no one can tell that Kent is Superman – until he goes into a phone box. He looks like a human, but don’t be fooled.
What happened in Bethlehem was not pretend: God actually became human. He didn’t lose his divinity, but he took on humanity. He wasn’t an alien pretending to be human. The reason is explained in two key passages: ‘[Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ (Matthew 1:21). And, ‘For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.’ (Hebrews 2:17)
This was no play-acting, the divine Son of God became flesh (John.1:14). In the early church there were heretics who claimed that Jesus just pretended to be human. It was argued, spirit (classed as good) could never mix with flesh (classed as bad). The Apostle John addressed this issue head-on, in 1 John 4:2: ‘This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.’ (emphasis mine).
Now, if ‘No crying he makes’ is true then Jesus is not really human but only pretending. And if he is only pretending to be human then ultimately we have no Saviour.
So, I for one am glad there was a cry from the manager, for it helps me to believe that the only begotten Son of God: very God of very God, came down from heaven and, for our salvation, was incarnate by the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary, was made man.
Have a very happy Christmas celebrating the birth of the God-Man, Jesus, Saviour of the world.
Father, thank you for sending your Son to save us from our sins, made possible because he is fully God and fully man. In his name we pray, Amen.
Study by Barry Robinson
1 Away in a Manger, Anon, Discipleship Ministries | History of Hymns: “Away in a Manger” (umcdiscipleship.org)
About the writer:
Barry Robinson is a minister in Grace Communion International and Regional Pastor for Southern England.
Grace Communion International central London
Mahatma Gandhi Hall
41 Fitzroy Square
Local congregational contact:
Word of Life contact: