I’ve written about this hymn a couple times in the past few weeks. I think I may have mentioned that we had been singing it at bedtime with the kids. Since it was one of the songs in the children’s service, we thought the kids could learn it (or at least hear it).
The other night after we put the kids to bed, I sat outside the girls’ room and listened as Hannah sang the four stanzas of the hymn that we have been singing. She was singing to Lydia. She knows the words by heart and was singing them without prompting. To me, it really doesn’t get any better than that.
Now this is probably not the first Christmas hymn that most parents would teach their children. And it isn’t the first that our children learned. Last year we sang Away in a Manger every night. But I am a firm believer that we do need to teach Lutheran hymns to our children—the earlier the better. By "Lutheran hymns" I generally mean hymns written by Lutherans or those earlier hymns that were commonly used by Lutherans. It’s not to say that there are no other good hymns, but I want to make sure that these hymns don’t get lost.
I sometimes make the comment that I am teaching my kids hymns so that they can sing them to me on my death bed. I say that only half in jest. The thought comes from an experience I had where a Lutheran man (whom I knew loved Lutheran hymns) was on his death bed. His children knew that, so they wanted to sing to him, but they did not know the hymns that he knew and loved. The only ones they knew where the ones they learned as children (like I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb). They had no doubt sung many of those hymns, but they didn’t know them. I told myself that when I am dying, I would like my family to come and sing the hymns that I have known and loved and that have brought comfort to me.
But I’m really not just teaching them these hymns for my sake. I want them to know hymns that would be comforting to me when dying because I believe those same hymns would bring them comfort and strength throughout life. I want them to be able to call these words to mind in all kinds of life-situations—even when they’re not in church with a hymnal in front of them or even when they get old and their eyesight fades.
So perhaps you could imagine my pleasure to hear my four-year-old singing these words:
O Jesus Christ,
Your manger is
My paradise where my soul is reclining.
For there, O Lord,
We find the Word
Made flesh for us—your grace is brightly shining.
He whom the sea
And wind obey
Comes down to serve the sinner in great meekness.
Now God’s own Son
With us is one
And joins us and our children in our weakness.
Dear Christian friend
On him depend;
Be of good cheer and let no sorrow move you.
For God’s own child
In mercy mild
Joins you to him—how greatly God must love you!
The world may hold
Her wealth and gold;
But you, my heart, keep Christ as your true treasure.
To him hold fast
Until at last
A crown is yours and honor in full measure.