No one is quite sure where this beloved Christmas Carol comes from. And perhaps that for the best – as its message is able to speak loud and clear of a savior born to save us from our sins!
It was first published – although with a different tune – in the Lutheran Little Children’s Book: For School and Families. No author was cited but the evidence we have points to it being written in America sometime in the years leading up to the Civil War.
The legend is that Martin Luther wrote it and sang it as a bed time lullaby to his children. But there is no record of this at all, and seems to have been made up by Murray. Why? Probably because he didn’t know the origins of the tune and wanted to give such a popular tune a little “weight” to its history.
Whoever the songwriter was, they probably didn’t live to see the song reach children the world over with its poignant message. Yet while the mystery of origination remains, the song’s message, depicting the precious moment when a Savior came to earth bringing peace, joy, and hope, is so strong and profound that it leaped from a single night, from a single household, to become one of the world’s most beautiful Christmas messages in song. The picture that story paints is even more profound and riveting than that of Luther singing “Away in a Manger” in Deutsch to his children.