Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Away in a Manger

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
The stars in the 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 Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there.

--James Murray

There was indeed a manger near Bethlehem, a cave full of foul odors and animal waste. There a homeless couple crept when the door of the inn was shut in their faces. There the little Lord Jesus “laid down his sweet head”--a helpless infant with unfocused eyes and uncontrollable limbs, needing to be cuddled and cared for.[1] "The infinite made infinitesimally small," G. K. Chesterton said; the little Lord Jesus. An easy thing it is to love him.

Fredrick Buechner wrote "The child is born among beasts. The sweet breath and steaming dung of beasts. And nothing is ever the same again. Those who believe in God can never in a way be sure of him again. Once they have seen him in a stable, they can never be what lengths he will go, or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation he will descend in his wild pursuit of mankind..."[2]

All through the Old Testament we read that God has been doing his best to get next to us, but nothing can match what happened that night in that manger. Now we know to what lengths God will go to be near us. "Ludicrous depths of self-humiliation." Indeed!

This is Christmas, the final, irrefutable proof that God will do anything to get next to us, to be close by us forever. And the startling thought is this: If there were but one of us he still would have come.

Mozart's Requiem contains a wonderful line: "Remember, merciful Jesu, that I am the cause of your journey."


[1] "No crying he makes?" Nonsense. There is no sin in crying: "Jesus wept" (John 11:35)
[2] Fredrick Buechner, The Hungering Dark

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