Before Your Manger

A few years ago a woman in the church told me she’d love to sing a Christmas carol she remembered fondly from her childhood in Germany. Being a German speaker I was more than happy to oblige. However, I couldn’t find a translation that was completely satisfying or an arrangement that fit my church’s musicians.

It’s no wonder. The original German text is 15 verses long, and the musical arrangements span from Bach to German a cappella boy bands. This Fall I finally got serious about the song and dove headfirst into it with the goal of completing a new translation and arrangement for our Lessons & Carols service. It was insanely difficult to translate. The German rhyme scheme is extremely tight, leaving little flexibility. The melody plays itself over and over in your brain, but doesn’t behave like a “normal” melody. All in all it was one of the more difficult projects I’ve taken on in a long time.

Above is the recording from Church of the Servant’s 2015 Lessons & Carols service. Below is my translation of the four German verses I focused on.

1. Before your manger, here I stand;
dear Jesus, my life’s treasure.
A humble gift is all I have;
I pray it gives you pleasure.
O take my heart, my mind, my soul,
and take my life, I offer all
back to the One who gave it.

2. For even in my mother’s womb,
dear Jesus, you were calling.
You loved me long before I could
bow down to you, adoring.
Before I ever walked this earth,
you planned for me a second birth,
to win my love forever.

3. I gaze on you with joy and love;
I’m filled with adoration.
No song of praise could be enough
to voice my jubilation.
O that my heart, my soul could be
e’en deeper, wider than the sea,
to hold your love o’erflowing!

4. One thing I ask of you, my Lord,
dear Jesus, hear my prayer:
that you would make a humble home
within my heart forever.
O come to me and stay with me.
O let my heart your cradle be.
Fill me with joy unending.

1. Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier,
o Jesu, du mein Leben;
ich komme, bring und schenke dir,
was du mir hast gegeben.
Nimm hin, es ist mein Geist und Sinn,
Herz, Seel und Mut, nimm alles hin
und laß dir’s wohlgefallen.

2. Da ich noch nicht geboren war,
da bist du mir geboren
und hast mich dir zu eigen gar,
eh ich dich kannt, erkoren.
Eh ich durch deine Hand gemacht,
da hast du schon bei dir bedacht,
wie du mein wolltest werden.

3. Ich sehe dich mit Freuden an
und kann mich nicht satt sehen;
und weil ich nun nichts weiter kann,
bleib ich anbetend stehen.
O daß mein Sinn ein Abgrund wär
und meine Seel ein weites Meer,
daß ich dich möchte fassen!

4. Eins aber, hoff ich, wirst du mir,
mein Heiland, nicht versagen:
daß ich dich möge für und für
in, bei und an mir tragen.
So laß mich doch dein Kripplein sein;
komm, komm und lege bei mir ein
dich und all deine Freuden.

This entry was posted in Arrangement, Choir, Church, Live. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Before Your Manger

  1. Greg Scheer says:

    Here’s a different recording, this time from Christmas Eve, without the guitar: http://musicblog.gregscheer.com/before_your_manger-xmas_eve.mp3

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