After my student played “Away in a Manger” for me on the piano, she asked, “What’s a manger?”
I said, “Oh! It’s a feeding trough for animals. Remember how Mary and Joseph had to stay in a stable with animals, the night Jesus was born? That’s what this song is about.”
She stared at me blankly. I said, “You do know the story of Mary and Joseph, right?” She shook her head no. Now it was my turn to stare at her blankly.
Here was a little girl who had grown up in America–the land of the free–and lives in a community that has more churches than bars, and yet she had never heard the true Christmas story? Well no way was I going to let her leave my piano bench without warming her heart with the greatest story ever told.
I told her about the angel, the brave young girl named Mary, and about God’s Son who was tucked miraculously into her belly. I explained about the trip to Bethlehem, the completely full inn, and the stable where Mary gave birth to Jesus, who came to save us from our sins.
That was years ago, and I’ve lost touch with my little piano student, who has now grown into a young woman–probably about the age that Mary was when she became Jesus’ mom. I wonder if “Away in a Manger” ever jogs her memory of the story–maybe as a choir sings in the mall, or the tune is played over the department store speakers. The ‘wise men’ once sought Jesus out. I wonder if she has, too.
I only had a few moments to give a sweet little girl to her first glimpses Jesus. But in a blink, the moment was gone, along with her childhood.
Jesus came as a gift to all. Just because someone is wearing red and green, or even playing a Christmas song about Jesus, don’t assume they’ve truly received the gift of Christmas. Who will you share the Gift with this season?