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Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Christmas Eve

Away in a manger, no crib for his bed,
the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing; the poor baby wakes,
but little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.
I love thee, Lord Jesus; look down from the sky,
and stay by my side until 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.

“Away in a Manger” (tune: Cradle Song)
from Little Children’s Book for Schools and Families
and Gabriel’s Vineyard Songs
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal

In his biblical scholarship, Raymond Brown makes a convincing case that the stories about Jesus’ birth in the New Testament are likely the last biblical stories about Jesus to have been written. It is likely, he argues, that only after Jesus had become renowned for his amazing deeds and teachings and for his death and resurrection that his followers began to wonder and imagine what his childhood and birth must have been like.

Every birth puts in stark relief the vulnerability of each new life. The story of Jesus’ birth, sung in this hymn, captures a life made even more vulnerable by its humble circumstances. In the humblest of shelters and without insulation from a world that could be, and eventually is, threatening to his life, Jesus is born.

Yet this song is not one of threat and danger. It is one of awe and wonder. Despite the fact that the hymnist knew how Jesus’ life on earth would end, he composed a hymn that conveys a sentiment arising out of trust rather than suspicion. The hymnist portrays the world into which Jesus was born as neither indifferent nor hostile, but as his father’s world, capable of beholding, nurturing, and sustaining the preciousness of life.

We are in awe, almighty God, of the preciousness of every new life. As we prepare for the coming of your Son, help us to make this world a safer, more secure, and loving place—a place where each new life can flourish. For the sake of the most vulnerable among us, we pray. Amen.

Written by Joyce Shin, Associate Pastor for Congregational Life

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