Away in a Manger

I woke up this morning with the memory of my first time singing in public glowing softly in my mind. I was three years old, but I remember it so clearly. I was baptized in the Catholic Church as an infant, but my family did not attend church thereafter, though the church where my baptism took place was just up the street from our home. My mother was a non-practicing Catholic, and my non-believing father openly scorned religion. Hence my mother being non-practicing! He did, however, humor her by agreeing that I could be baptized, as this was very important to my mother. My earliest memory in this life is that of lying in my crib, hearing the bells of St. Thomas Aquinas ringing, and feeling their vibration through the coils in the crib mattress. The sound and vibration of the church bells were profoundly comforting to me.

As a toddler I became aware of a loving, protective Presence close by me at all times. I decided He must have entered the house through a little crack in the skylight at the top of the stairs. He knew when I was scared, and comforted me. He helped me fall asleep, and kept me company when I was lonely. I didn’t know His Name, but I knew He was my Friend and could be trusted.

At the bottom corner of our street there was a Methodist Church with a little staircase leading down from the sidewalk to a basement door. There was an ornate wrought iron railing that I liked very much, and I always felt drawn to go down the stairs and peer into the glass panels on the door. Finally one day my mother answered my plea, walked me down the stairs, and lifted me up so I could see inside. To my delight, it was a room filled with books and toys, and tiny furniture; just my size! I asked my mom adamantly if I could please go inside, so when we got home she called the church office and asked if I could attend the Sunday School class even though our family didn’t attend the church.

The next Sunday, my mother walked me down the street, and I happily slid my hand along the wrought iron railing and descended the stairs. We were greeted by Miss Ruth; the Sunday School teacher for the preschool aged children. I felt totally comfortable having my mom leave me there. I remember playing with a miniature wooden grandfather clock, and looking at several “Little Golden Books”. Then Miss Ruth called all the children to sit in a circle on the floor. She held up a picture of a kindly Shepherd, holding a little lamb. “The Lord is my Shepherd…”, she read out the words to Psalm 23 and had us gently pass the picture around the circle. When it was my turn, I gazed deeply into the Shepherd’s smiling eyes as I listened to Miss Ruth’s words, “…I shall not fear, for You are close beside me…”, and it struck my little heart that this Shepherd was the Friend I had felt close beside at home. Now I knew His Name; Jesus! I was overjoyed!

Which brings me to the joy of singing in the church Christmas Pageant. The three year old group took to the stage to sing “Away in a Manger”, which I had memorized and diligently practiced. I felt every word of it; the innocent stirrings of empathy for the Baby, for His Mother, for the animals. I wanted to comfort and protect Baby Jesus, and He would grow up to comfort and protect me. I sang out loud and clear, with all my heart.

It was so simple. And really, it still is.

I am now probably older than Miss Ruth was at that time. I have sung on many stages, and have studied theology and served in many churches. But this Christmas Eve morning, I awakened with a childlike song in my mind, tears in my eyes, and empathy and deep gratitude in my heart. In the midst of all that presently troubles me, and the world, I am thankful I can still feel every word; and know the comfort of the Presence of my Friend.

Merry Christmas and Deep Peace to All.

~Cheryl Anne

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 in 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 ’til 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 take us to heaven, to live with Thee there.

4 thoughts on “Away in a Manger

  1. Oh, my mystic friend who has always shown the true essence of the One, Your writing is a wonderful gift, your life is a wonderful example of unfettered joy. Thank you for causing my heart to expand and celebrate the glory through your eyes.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s