Tag Archives: Christmas carols

I Wonder As I Wander

Nativity

 “I Wonder As I Wander.” The American folklorist John Jacob Niles wrote that haunting Christmas carol. You may remember the words:

 

I wonder as I wander out under the sky

How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die

For poor on’ry people like you and like I;

I wonder as I wander out under the sky

When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow’s stall

With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all

But high from God’s heaven, a star’s light did fall

And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing

A star in the sky or a bird on the wing

Or all of God’s Angels in heaven to sing

He surely could have it, ’cause he was the King

I wonder as I wander out under the sky

How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die

For poor on’ry people like you and like I;

                                                                                                                     I wonder as I wander out under the sky

 

Niles heard a young girl sing a fragment of that song in a little town in North Carolina in 1933. “Her clothes were unbelievably dirty and ragged, and she too, was unwashed,” he wrote in his autobiography, “but she was beautiful, and in her untutored way, she could sing. She smiled as she sang, smiled rather sadly, and sang only a single line of the song.”

I wonder. Like so many great Christmas carols this song calls us to reflection, to wonder about the deepest questions of life, questions you only think about as you wander out under the sky. Big questions.

So where do we come from? And where are we going? And what does it all mean? Does God who is beyond our sight, see us? Is Jesus our Savior God’s Son?  Has he really come among us?

I wonder how he came. He could have had anything, our song says, “a star in the sky, or a bird on the wing”…he could have had anything, “cause he was a King.” But he came “for to die.”

I wonder about this fallen world of ours. Why does death still seem so strong?  Why were those innocent children slaughtered by Herod at his birth? And why do innocent children still die, I wonder today? And why in the end did he die such a death?

“When Mary birthed Jesus, twas in a cow stall.” Wise men and ordinary people came to a manger, his first throne on earth. I wonder how God should dwell in so simple a place, where animals were fed. Is it in  simple places like this, in bread and wine, in the simple ways we love each other, that God still feeds us, who wander out under the sky, “poor on’ry people like you and like I?”