Scripture Verse

This shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Luke 2:12

Introduction

illustration
Adoration of the Shepherds
Gerard van Honthorst
1590–1656

Words: Vers­es 1 & 2, ano­ny­mous, in Lit­tle Child­ren’s Book for Schools and Fa­mi­lies, by J. C. File (Phi­la­del­phia, Penn­syl­van­ia: Ev­an­ge­li­cal Lu­ther­an Church in North Am­er­ica, 1885). Some sourc­es give the au­thor as Mar­tin Lu­ther; this at­tri­bu­tion (prob­ab­ly in­cor­rect) is based on the ti­tle Lu­ther’s Cradle Hymn, gi­ven to these words by the com­pos­er, James Mur­ray, in his Dain­ty Songs for Lit­tle Lads and Lass­es (Cin­cin­na­ti, Ohio: John Church, 1887). Verse 3 is by John T. Mc­Far­land.

Music: Muel­ler James R. Mur­ray, 1887 (🔊 pdf nwc).

Alternate Tune:

If you know where to get a good pho­to of Mc­Far­land (head & shoul­ders, at least 200×300 pix­els),

portrait
James R. Murray
1841–1905

Background

Bishop Will­iam F. An­der­son has giv­en the sto­ry of the writ­ing of the third stan­za:

When I was sec­re­ta­ry of the Board of Edu­ca­tion, 1904–08, I want­ed to use Away in a man­ger, which I found with the des­ig­na­tion, Mar­tin Lu­ther’s Cra­dle Song, in the Child­ren’s Day pro­gram one year. It had but two stan­zas, 1 and 2.

Dr. John T. Mc­Far­land, then Sec­re­ta­ry of our Board of Sun­day Schools, was my near neigh­bor in his of­fice at 150th Fifth Ave­nue [New York]. I asked him to write a third stan­za.

He went to his of­fice and with­in an hour brought me the third stan­za be­gin­ning, Be near me, Lord Je­sus, I ask Thee to stay. I used it, which was the first time it was ev­er pub­lished.

I am pleased to see that it is now be­ing used ve­ry wide­ly. The hon­or of it be­longs to that great and good man, John T. Mc­Far­land.

McCutchan, p. 436

Lyrics

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.