364 Away in a Manger
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to takeLuke 2:7
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Away in a Manger remains a Christmas Carol with many kinds of memories. Because it speaks so tenderly of the Lord's loving care for children, and because its range suits most children's voices, Away in a Manger will be a standard Christmas Carol for the youngest children for some time to come.
The first stanzas set the scene with the most simple images. The believers of any age prays that the Lord will be with us to drive away all fears and ward off all dangers to body or soul. The love and protection the Lord Jesus promises to all of His people is especially important to children and for those involved in nurturing children in Christ whether their own or not.
My wife, Heidi, and I are committed to the lives of our three daughters because experience proved to us very early on how precious each one of them were. For us, this carol touches another place and set of promises. We, along with so many other parents, bear the battle scars of wrestling with death over the lives of our children and finding God's promises our refuge and strength.
Had my son, Isaiah, been four days older in the womb, he would have received a birth certificate. As it was he was not recognized by the state as even having been. Heidi and I knew better; he had been. We had felt him with our bodies and with our hearts. We had already counted him a part of our future. There is no paper from the state to recognize him-instead we have promises.
The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.Instead of raising these children up in our own households, experiencing and exploring all of the variety of life, we will get to know them only in heaven. We will recognize them by their heartbeats. We will recognize them by the kicks of their feet. We will hear their stories for the very first time while accompanied by angel choruses. We will see whether the Lord did any better a job of raising them than we might have. We got to know some of our children for a very short time. The futures we had mapped out with them were cut short. Our dreams never grew into the realities we had hoped for, and there is a place where hurt and hope hold onto each other in the waiting of these days.
Parents like us live a portion of our lives in "Advent waiting" every day for the rest of our lives. Advent is part of our balance. All families are divided between the church militant and the church triumphant. All His beloved children are in the Lord's tender care. We all rely on these simple and clear promises that the Lord of love cares for us and is caring for every single life we loved in His everlasting embrace.