Since the late 19th century, The Church has been held hostage to one of the most theologically facile songs that has ever been sung during a service. All of the accusations of “pie in the sky when you die” and a “bearded man in the sky” can be found in this universal favourite. When combined in a service filled with “baby” Jesus and the Christmas “Story” references, The Church has been inoculating people to the revolutionary faith we have in Christ.
Away in a Manger has become such a large part of our wider cultural memory that planning a service without it can cause disagreements both inside the church community and outside of it. Ruth and I have talked about this problem for many years. A couple of years ago we wondered what it would be like if Away in a Manger was as revolutionary as the Magnificat. Using those words as our inspiration we decided to rewrite Away in a Manger from the perspective of Mary looking at her newborn child.
We have used it for the last couple of years in a variety of different contexts and it goes down really well. We reworked it for Metanoia and the Rock Mass but we’re only half way through recording it so here is a simple arrangement to show how it could be used on organ or guitar.
Let’s take back Christmas! Please use it freely in worship and schools. If you want to credit us as “Ruth and Robb Sutherland” you’d make our day.
Mary’s Lullaby (Away in a Manger)
“Away in a manger, asleep on the hay,
I will watch over you at the end of the day,
The stars in the bright sky shine down where you lie,
As angels sing ‘Glory be to God on high’.”
“My spirit rejoices, for news of your birth
Like wildfire will spread over all of the earth;
A light in our darkness, a hope for the poor,
God’s gift to all people of life evermore.”
“Your name shall be Jesus, for this holy night
Is fulfilment of promise through God’s saving might;
But now sleep in peace, as I sing lullaby,
I will stay by your side til your dawning is nigh.”
– Lyrics adapted by Ruth and Robb Sutherland