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The Story Behind the Christmas Carol… “Away in a Manger”

The Story Behind the Christmas Carol… “Away in a Manger”
December 19 2017
Written by: Prophecy in the News

One of the most loved children’s Christmas songs is “Away in a Manger.” The song is easily learned and the note range is quite within the vocal ability of all children. The lyrics are musical life lessons. They give a brief and simplistic summary of the Christmas birth of Jesus and go on to express a childlike love for the Savior with a desire and assurance that He is always near.


There is much speculation as to the origin of the simple hymn. Richard S. Hill, a reference librarian at the Library of Congress, is considered the authority on the song, having done extensive research on the subject. His findings were published in the Music Library Association’s journal, Notes, December of 1945, in his article “Not So Far Away In A Manger: Forty-one settings of an American Carol.”

According to Hill, the song first appeared in a Lutheran publication Little children’s book: for schools and families. By Authority of the general council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America. The song is listed as a nursery hymn with the book dated “Christmas 1884” and the copyright being June of 1885. In this printing, the tune for the poem is called St. Kilda and was written by J.E. Clark. Only two verses were included with this publication, and those used are without the listing of an author or source, a characteristic unlike other included hymns.


There is speculation that the two verses were from an anonymous play or story written within the German Lutheran sect found in Pennsylvania. In 1883, Lutherans as well as many Protestant groups were celebrating the 400th birthday of German Reformer, Martin Luther. The poem could have been written as part of a local presentation of this event, which possible could have led to the gross misinformation that was printed in a later publication.

It is also been commonly known as “Luther’s Cradle Hymn.” Hill concluded: “Although Luther himself had nothing to do with the carol, the colonies of German Lutherans in Pennsylvania almost certainly did.”


In 1887, the poem with a new melody was published in Dainty songs for little lads and lasses, for use in the kindergarten, school and home by James R. Murray. Mr. Murray, editor with the John Church Company, titled the piece “Luther’s Cradle Hymn.” Beneath the title was the note “Composed by Martin Luther for his children, and still sung by German mothers to their little ones.” The composer indication was marked only with the initials J.R. M. Because of the recent celebrations of Luther’s birth, this may have been an act of giving credence to Luther for the sole purpose of affording the piece notoriety. It was well received, and as its popularity grew, Murray re-published the song the following year (1888) in the publication Royal Praise for the Sunday School. A collection of new and selected gospel songs… by J. R. Murray. He slightly changed the song from the original by changing the key and repeating the last phrase – enough to claim a copyright to the song and stated it at the bottom of the page. In 1892, the carol was again re-published by the John Church Company in a compilation of songs entitled Little sacred songs for little singers of the primary department of the Sunday school and for kindergartens and the home. Murray again edited the collection but this time changing the song back to its original key and adding his initials. It is interesting to note that Murray is not given credit for the piece in subsequent collections by other publishers. This is probably due to his initial indication that the piece belonged to Luther. Fear of copyright infringement probably drove others away from Murray’s claim of copyright.

Originally, the poem had only two verses, which, due to lack of any significant documentation, are considered anonymous, though the German Lutheran congregation of Pennsylvania probably gave birth to the poem. The third verse was added something in the 1890’s. It first appeared in Charles H. Gabriel’s collection Gabriel’s vineyard songs.

Bishop William F. Anderson attributed the third verse to Dr. John T. McFarland. He claimed that McFarland wrote the verse in response to his request for a third verse to be performed at a Children’s Day program. Although Anderson had requested McFarland write a third verse, it is unclear whether he actually wrote the verse or just provided a verse. Dates seem to indicate that McFarland may have supplied Anderson with a copy of Gabriel’s 1892 edition and Anderson may have assumed that McFarland wrote the verse. According to Anderson, McFarland wrote the verse sometime between 1904 and 1908, eliminating McFarland as a viable source of the verse. james-r-murray

The early 1920s saw a new name on Murray’s carol. It was Carl Mueller who was given compositional credit. According to Hill, Mueller may have been a fictional name given by some editors who were still unsure of Murray as the composer. Rather than no indication of composer, a common German name may have been printed so as to dilute the trail of information. It would be comparable to using John Smith if an American name were used. Hill and his colleagues could find no credence to Mueller as the composer or even to the existence to Mueller. Hill gives his allegiance to Murray as composer of the tune, which is traditionally sung in American as “Away in A Manger” although the carol’s tune is officially called “Mueller.”

James R. Murray was born in 1841 in Andover Massachusetts to Walter and Christina Murray. He received his musical training from such hymnology giants as George F. Root, Lowell Mason, William B. Bradbury, George J. Webb, and Whitney Eugene Thayer. After a brief military service during the Civil War, he joined Root assisting in editorial duties. After the Chicago fire, he returned to Andover where he taught public school until 1881. He then joined the John Church Company, where he fulfilled editorial duties. It is supposed that he died in 1904 when his name disappeared from the directory of Cincinnati where he and his wife Isabel resided, although his year of death cannot be substantiated.

Although there are numerous tunes applied to the poem, two melodies are most prevalent in use today. Murray’s tune has become truly an American carol. However, in England and Europe, another tune is more commonly sung. In an ironic sense, another American composer, William J. Kirkpatrick, took the American poem, composed a new tune based on a Scottish song, and introduced it across the seas. In 1895, seven of Kirkpatrick’s compositions were included in a pamphlet published by the Cranston and Curts Company. It included narratives and recitations along with songs, much like today’s sacred musicals or cantatas. The title was Around the world with Christmas. A Christmas exercise. The pamphlet described different settings of Christmas in various countries, including England, Scotland, and Germany. Kirkpatrick’s tune, as arrangement of the song “Flow Gently, Sweet Afton, “was used with the poem “Away in a Manger” and titled “Luther’s Cradle Hymn.” It was sung by children or a selected soloist as a tribute to The German Fatherland in the pamphlet. Because of the popularity of the pamphlet overseas, Kirkpatrick’s setting is more commonly sung in England as opposed to Murray’s setting, which is traditionally sung in America.


Recent collections, which include the carol, still give credit to Luther and the mythical Carl Mueller. Regardless of who wrote what version or verse, the indication is that “Away in A Manger” is truly an American carol loved by many, especially children. This musical portrait of an innocent sleeping king in the humblest of settings is truly a landscape of peace on earth.

Luke 2:7 (KJV)
“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”


Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus lay 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.

Source: “Song of Christmas” and the stories behind them – by Tommy and Renee Pierce (Copyright 2008)
“Then Sings My Soul” – by Robert J. Morgan

By Prophecy in the News| December 19th, 2017|Tags: Away in a Manger, Carol, Christmas, Songs




Acts 4:12  King James Version (KJV)
12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Apostle Simon Peter   33 A.D.

The Cure
We’re all related, brothers and strangers
The king and the beggar bleed the same
We’ve all got a sickness, a terminal condition
We medicate it but the pain won’t go away
See the eyes of a million faces
Looking for it in a million places
Only one can save us, Jesus
You are the cure
Everybody’s searching for it
Everybody’s reaching out
Trying to grab a hold of something real
You are the cure
Only you can satisfy us
Fill up the void inside us
Never been a heart you couldn’t heal
You are the cure
You are the doctor, healer and father
To the orphan without a home
We fell into darkness, lost till you found us
You are the remedy we’re looking for
You are the cure
Everybody’s searching for it
Everybody’s reaching out
Trying to grab a hold of something real
You are…


John 14:6  King James Version (KJV)
6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Jesus Christ of Nazareth    32 A.D.

For King & Country ~ O God Forgive Us

Praise the Lord for the lyrics and music from this well known contemporary Christian music group.  The words seek the Lord’s forgiveness for our sins: for His forgiveness of our ineptness, our lack of faith and obedience, and for our continual need for repentance and a contrite heart:

O God Forgive Us

Produced by Seth Mosley

Verified commentary by
O God Forgive Us Lyrics

[Verse 1]
We’ve prayed the prayer with no reply
Words float off into the night
Couldn’t cut our doubt with the sharpest knife
O, O God forgive us
Silence isn’t comfortable
We want drive through peace and instant hope
Our shallow faith it has left us broke
O, O God forgive us
O, O God forgive us

A slave to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
O, O God forgive us

[Verse 2]
Young and old, black and white
We’re rich and poor, there’s no divide
Hear the mighty, hear the powerless, singing
O, O God forgive us
O, O God forgive us

A slave to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
O, O God forgive us


With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide
With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide
With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide
With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide

O, O God forgive us
A slave to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
O, O God forgive us

Run wild. To risk everything. To hold nothing back. To lay it all on the line: your reputation, your success, your comfort. It’s that moment when fear is overcome by faith. Live free. It’s not the liberty to do whatever you want whenever and wherever you want, but rather it’s living in course with the Author of humanity and finding freedom by connecting with the Creator who conceived you.  Let the light flood into your eyes for the first time. Feeling the blood course through your veins, finding the truest version of yourself by knowing the one who knows you even better than you know yourself. Love strong. Because you were first loved. Because without love we all perish. Because the earth and the stars can and will pass away, but love, love will always remain





Matthew West ~ Broken Things

Broken Things

If grace is a kingdom
I’ve stopped at the gate
Thinking I don’t deserve to pass through after all of the mistakes I’ve made
But I heard a whisper
As Heaven bent down
Said, “Child, don’t you know that the first will be last and the last get a crown?”

Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King
I wish I could bring You so much more
But if it’s true You use broken things
Then here I am Lord, I am all Yours

The pages of history they tell me it’s true
That it’s never the perfect; it’s always the ones with the scars that You use
It’s the rebels and the prodigals; it’s the humble and the weak
The misfit heroes You chose
Tell me there’s hope for sinners like me

Grace is a kingdom
With gates open wide
There’s seat at the table just waiting for you
So, come on inside

Publishing: © 2017 Atlas Music Publishing / House Of Story Music Publishing / Two Story House Music / Highly Combustible Music (ASCAP) / Housermania Music/ (ASCAP) (admin. by Amplified Administration)

Jeremy Camp – A Ministry Built On Personal Loss, Brokenness, And Ultimate Strength From The Lord

Jeremy Camp’s life was filled with suffering, prior to the ministry that has placed him in the public eye across the globe.  His wife Melissa died on February 5, 2001.  That was the springboard for his music ever since.  Now one can sense pain and suffering as a theme in all of his music, yet he finds his strength in the Lord.  His music is an autobiography.  His mere presence on videos, pictures, appearances and songs connotes one who is like his Savior – “a Man of sorrows.”   …or like Jeremiah, the weeping prophet.  Underlying his melancholy exterior, however, is a total inner peace and trust in his Lord.  He is a marvelous reflection of our suffering Savior and the Lamb of God.  Key the following link for his story:


The Christian Broadcasting Network
CBN is a global ministry committed to preparing the nations of the world for the coming of Jesus Christ through mass media. Using television and the Internet, CBN is proclaiming the Good News in 149 countries and territories, with programs and content in 67 languages.
If you have an immediate prayer need, please call our 24-hour prayer line at 800-945-5640. CBN’s ministry is made possible by the support of our CBN Partners.

Jeremy Camp: Melissa’s Dying Wish

Melissa Camp’s Tribute Page
Interview: I Still Believe
Audra Smith Haney – 700 Club Producer

Award-winning musician, Jeremy Camp leads worship all over the world every year. Jeremy says his success was born out of a life filled with personal suffering. It began with his marriage to Melissa, a marriage Jeremy entered into knowing that the woman he loved was dying.
Jeremy remembers the day he met Melissa. He was leading worship for a church group in San Diego.
“I was singing and I looked up, and there was Melissa with her hands raised up so high. You could tell she was really worshipping Jesus,” remembers Jeremy. “I kind of joke around [now] and say, ‘I hit the wrong chords and sang a little flat.’ ”
After only a few months of dating, Jeremy was in love.
“I said, Melissa, I need to tell you something, ‘I love you.’ But she said, ‘I don’t feel the same way.’ ”
However a few months later, Jeremy received a call from Melissa, who gave him some devastating news. She had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer.”
“I remember walking into the hospital, and she had just found out she had cancer, and she was smiling. I was like, ‘Why is she smiling?’ ”
“She [Melissa] said, ‘I am doing okay, because I have been thinking, if I were to die from this cancer, if one person were to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, it would all be worth it.’ ”
“I was driving home that night, and I was crying, and all these emotions were coming up again. I said, ‘Lord, if she tells me she loves me, I will marry her.’ I don’t even know why I said it. It was just God preparing my heart.”
Jeremy remembers, “So, about two weeks later, I got a phone call. She [Melissa] said, ‘I need to talk to you.’ She said, ‘I know now why God wanted it to be just me and Him because He wanted to prepare me for this. But I have been praying for you for a long time, and I wanted to let you know, ‘I love you.’ ”
“It was like, we both just knew. We just knew,” says Jeremy.
Five months later, Jeremy and Melissa wed. However, during their honeymoon, Melissa started having serious stomach pains.
“So, we got back to the doctor when the honeymoon was over and the doctors pulled me aside. They had done some tests on her. They said, ‘The cancer is back.’ So I was like, ‘What can we do?’ There is nothing else we can do. It is all over her body. The doctor told Melissa she had months, maybe weeks, to live.”
“I remember her [Melissa] saying, ‘Jeremy I just want to worship the Lord right now.’ So, of course, I would pull the guitar out. It’s those moments, and we had more of those moments, where it’s not about our circumstances when we worship the Lord. He is worthy to be praised no matter what we are going through.”
On February 5, 2001, at 21-years-old, Melissa died.
“I was on my knees and I remember her sister saying, ‘She is with Jesus now.’ A grief fell over me that I can’t describe. The weight of her suffering is over, but the grief is she’s gone. We always had worship music playing in the background. I remember the Lord speaking into my heart and saying, ‘Jeremy, I want you to stand up and worship me.’ I remember standing up and raising my hands.”
“That was such a good act of obedience for me, just saying, ‘Lord, I don’t want to do this, but I know this is why I am here.’ ”
“I remember not wanting to ask God, ‘Why,’ but I finally did, and God always spoke to me. He said, ‘Jeremy, I don’t always want you to know why, because I want you to have a testimony of walking by faith.’ And I had written that song previously on our honeymoon, Walk By Faith.”
“And I look at these songs that come from it, Walk by Faith and I Still Believe. I wrote two weeks after she went to be with the Lord,” says Jeremy. “I have seen story after story of God using this whole thing to show His faithfulness to encourage people. That blows my mind realizing that Melissa made that statement, that if even one person accepts Christ. I hear thousands and thousands of stories. I remember being on my face after that realization and God said, ‘Jeremy, ‘Remember.’ ”
“When I get distracted, when I lose sight of what is going on, God will say, ‘Look at how many thousands!’ ”
Today, Jeremy is re-married and his thriving ministry is shared with his new wife, recording artist Adrienne Camp.
“From that, you have the ministry of God bringing us together — Adrienne and I, and what we have together to minister to people. And from that, two beautiful girls, who have changed my life radically. My encouragement… .do not lose heart, because our affliction is just momentary and what He is preparing for us, what He has in store for us, it will blow us away.”
“Imagine no more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain… and one day we will forever be with Jesus,” he says.

…his songs to follow-