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 help me with others Thy mercies to share.
When Jesus was born he did not come with the splendor and pageantry that would be expected of a king; instead, Jesus was laid in a manger. A manger is a feeding trough for hungry animals, such as cattle, horses and donkeys. It is no place for any sleeping baby to lay, much less a king. Although Mary and Joseph probably tried to clean the manger up before they laid Jesus down, it was still undoubtedly a dirty and rough place for a baby to sleep.
Baby Jesus was laid in a manger because there was no other place for him to lay. “She [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). At first it may seem that it was just a series of misfortunate, unforeseen circumstances that resulted in the baby Jesus being laid in the manger. However, that simply can’t be the case. God had centuries to prepare for the birth of his son. Since the first sin in the garden, God had foretold of Jesus’ coming (Genesis 3:15). 700 years before Jesus was born Micah prophesied that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). So, God had plenty of time to plan every detail of his son’s birth. God could have easily arranged to have Jesus born in a castle with an ornately decorated cradle as a bed; after all, He is God, and He can do anything.
So, why would God choose that Jesus’ first bed should be a manger? Jesus was laid in a manger as an infant king because he came to teach mankind that God’s expectations are often opposite of the world’s. Jesus taught his followers that the last would be first and the least would be the greatest (Matthew 19:30). He humbled himself and became a servant, washing his disciples’ feet. Jesus’ entire life was an example of humility. Based on Christ’s life-long example, Paul instructs us to, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). In verse 8 of the same chapter Paul goes on to say, “he [Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” The manger was just a foreshadowing of the humility that that would lead to the cross.
What about you? Are you ready to live humbly to follow Jesus?
“As they were walking along the road, a man said to him [Jesus], ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’
Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head’” (Luke 9:57-58).
Jesus’ first bed was a manger, because there was no other place for him to lay his head. Later, as an adult he still had no place to lay his head. We have been called to follow Jesus. What are you willing to leave behind to humbly follow your Savior? Are you ready to give up your comfy cradle for a manger?