December 22, 2022
I Wonder As I Wander (WOV #642) Pastor Stephen M. Wood
This Christmas hymn is not one of the more popular or well-known hymns, but it is one of my favorites. In many ways it tells the story in a very down to earth way. The person is wondering under the sky about ‘how Jesus the Savior did come for to die for poor odr’n’ry people like you and like I’
It tells the story of ‘when Mary birthed Jesus, all in a cow’s stall, come wise men and farmers and shepherds all.’
The lyrics remind us that Jesus came for all in an ordinary place and that regular people came. All this so that God can do something extraordinary—Jesus to die for all and be Savior and king. The other thing about this Christmas songs that connects with me is the origin of the hymn. We do not know who actually wrote this song. It came into public use through a man named John Jacob Niles. He dedicated his life to collecting spirituals and music from Appalachia. He spent years wondering around the Appalachian Mountains in search of the origins of all kinds of songs. One day in December, he was in North Carolina and he overheard a solitary voice that belonged to a small girl sitting on a bench by herself singing a song, that Niles had never heard. He sat down and asked the girl where she learned the song. She told Niles that her mom taught it to her and that her grandmother taught it to her mom. And that was all she knew. Niles took a paper and pencil and wrote down the lyrics.
Over the years, Niles tried to find out more about the song that the small girl sang that day. But he never was able to find out more and in fact was unable to find that little girl again.
The book ‘Stories behind the best-loved Songs of Christmas’ by Ace Collins describes it like this:
‘It was as if the little one had been an angel sent to deliver a message, a message that embraced the wonder of the Savior’s birth and sacrifice. Because of a chance meeting between an unknown child and man who spent his life wandering America in search of music, the world gained an unforgettable Christmas ballad that has never ceased to cause those who hear it to wonder.’ (p. 90)
May this Christmas song enable you to wonder as you wander about the gift and blessing of Jesus the Savior who came to die for poor ordinary people like you and I.