For our Advent devotionals we are looking deeper at some of our favorite carols.
Today’s Scripture: Luke 2:6-7
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
Today’s Carol: 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.
This carol is just a tad too saccharine is it not? The baby has a sweet head, the stars looked down, Jesus never cries. Yes, it is a carol for children – but still. As we have mentioned before – the first Christmas was anything but sweet.
On the one hand I want to rewrite the words and make it more real – just as I have with other carols. On the other hand – maybe it’s not so bad. Let me explain.
The circumstances around Jesus’ birth were horrible – no doubt. An out-of-wedlock pregnancy, having to travel at 9 months, not being able to find a room, the list goes on and on. Mary and Joseph would have every right to be upset about their lot and every right to complain and whine. And maybe they did. But through this carol we can imagine that they might have redefined their situation and looked for the good. The author of the carol certainly did!
Despite what they were going through they had a bed for the baby, there was hay for warmth, Jesus was healthy, and indeed, all babies have sweet heads no matter where they are born. This carol reminds us that we can find the positive in just about any situation.
Of course, finding the good in a bad situation is not easy – and we certainly don’t want to deny or refuse to acknowledge the stuff we are going through. But maybe this year we need the sugar-coated carols to help us look for the positive. Maybe we need to be reminded that even our worst circumstances can include something to be grateful for – even if it’s just a manger for a crib.
God sometimes we are overwhelmed by the situations and conditions of our lives. And yet we know that there is something to be grateful for in our lives everyday. Help us to see it and reimagine our circumstances in the light of your care and protection of us.