Away in a Manger
The time-honored traditions of Christmas are dear to the hearts of Christians today. The story of the first Christmas recaptures the imagination as it is retold year after year in Bible readings, carols, Christmas pageants.
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.
As you sing the traditional song, “Away in a Manger” or set up porcelain replicas of the Nativity scene, you may imagine a wooden structure as the covering over sweet baby Jesus. Some are surprised to learn structures used to shelter animals in the time of Jesus’ birth were actually caves made from readily available stone. Lumber was considered much too precious to be used for this purpose. It is probable the manger was made from the same type of stone. Stone mangers, like the one Jesus could have been born in, have been excavated in Bethlehem that date back to this time period.
The Christmas Cave
The exact spot where the Lord was born, has been the subject of investigation and controversy. The only information the Scriptures gives is contained in the words of Luke, that when Joseph and Mary arrived at Bethlehem, they could find no place at the inn, and that, when Jesus was born, she was compelled to put the new-born babe in a manger.
A cave called, “The Christmas Cave,” has been identified in Bethlehem that could have been where baby Jesus was born or similar to where Jesus was born. As you picture this underground cave and stone manger, you get a whole new perspective as you read Luke 2:7;
And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Visiting the Caves
Bethlehem is just a few miles south of Jerusalem. It is dotted with numerous caves made from the light limestone of the region. The caves were easily made into many shapes and were always dry. They were naturally used for many purposes. Groups can explore one of the ancient caves, like the one Jesus was probably born in, to get a very realistic idea of what the conditions would have been like there in Bethlehem when Mary gave birth to our Savior.
See exciting Bible tour locations like the Christmas Cave on a Holy Land tour with Living Passages.