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Away in A Manger

10 December 2023


This morning, I received a message of profound truth and joy in my email box.  I needed to read, and believe anew, these words:

 

Your faith is the one thing that no one can ever take from you.

 

I struggle with faith, at times, more than I’d like to admit.  Dreadful memories from my past can cloud my vision of the future, even of today.  I then permit myself to feel doubts that have no business in being anywhere near me.  Those doubts are, I believe, the devil pulling his usual sh—.  Get behind me, Satan, isn’t my response because attack from the rear is a justified fear!

 

“Go to h—” is the appropriate command, except that ghoul is already there, and lonely for company.  It’s my theory that the devil is an identity-group groupie, not a rugged individualist.


While NO ONE can take away your faith in a brighter tomorrow, a benevolent God, in the shining city on a hill called America, in any sublime ideal worth believing in, there are plenty of people just ready and waiting to damage that faith which you so blessedly possess.

Call it faith-envy, but I can’t explain why the resentment-filled fill up so many spaces in this world.  They always have, and they always will.  Mortals such as I need to be reminded of the force of life, the élan vital that prevails over the cult of death and their rigid adherents.  That’s really what any virtuous person is up against during any holiday that celebrates the Gift in the Manger.

 

A few nights ago, I was listening to an instrumental version of “Away in A Manger.”  Simple, pure, and lovely, this Christmas carol is my favorite, and has been since childhood.  While I listened, copious tears poured down my face for several minutes.

 

I was recalling singing this somewhat child-like song in a children’s choir in the church of my childhood.  That sentence contains a lot of CHILD, with firm and wondrous intent.  I was seven years of age, and, already, showing signs of a strong voice, and an even stronger will to go along with that voice.  It’s a debate which one is stronger.


The choir director of this Cherub Choir, as it was called, was a prim, prudish woman, the wife of the Youth Director.  I shall dub her Mrs. Grim.  Her husband was also grim, but he tried to hide his disdain for children with a phoney, saccharine smile.  This grim couple was a 2-fer hired to, inevitably, dispel any joy in being young and in singing joyfully when youth is irrepressible.

 

The Repressed truly detest the Irrepressible.

 

During choir practice, the practice of Mrs. Grim to silence any child who sang too loudly, or with too much enthusiasm, was to pull, with each index against her thumb, a pretend-string in opposite directions, right in front of her pursed, pressed lips.  Those gruesome lips formed a line nearly as straight as that imaginary string.

 

It was her simpering symbol of Shut Up, but gradually fermer la bouche, not all at once, because then having your voice shushed would be too obvious.


At the age of seven, I saw that gesture so often during my singing that it became permanently associated with the Cherub Choir’s performance of any hymn.  During that Christmas season, however, to deal with my inexhaustible spirit and vigor for “Away in A Manger”, Mrs. Grim put me on the top row, or the back row of steps, as far away from her on the floor as possible.

 

My knowledge of acoustics — and how some voices carry — dates back to that performance.

 

I sang my heart out, and Mrs. Grim kept pulling that imaginary string, with a look in her eyes that said she wanted to string me up with it.


I’ve not forgotten that child-adult choir confrontation, down the years.  The joy of singing, the joy of believing in what you’re singing, the spirit of feeling alive through the expression of beautifully moving music — those are gifts come to us from Above.


Don’t let anyone pull her usual sh—.  Don’t put up with anyone hauling out her imaginary string to tie you up in her misery, her resentment, her repression, her oppression, her suppression, her stinking lack of faith in a merciful Creator.

 

“Away in A Manger” brought tears to my eyes this Yuletide, but I’ve a feeling those tears were my way of saying goodbye to yet another spoilsport doing, not the work of the Lord, but the bidding of someone else who shall remain nameless.

 

That sort of ignorance drives the attention-whore Anti-Christ crazy.

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