As Joey opened our Advent Journey Box this morning, we both peered in to see the word “Wonder”. My baby boy has three new words/phrases this week “Hallelujah” which sound more like “Ah-yay-u-ya”, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” which sounds more like “Ha ha hah!” and “Christmas Tree” which sounds more like “Ze Zee!” (well, I’m not sure if that really is “Christmas Tree”, because a few days ago he called it “Zch-zch-zch” every time he pointed at it…). Why am I telling you this? Because it has been amazing for me as a mom to witness the wonder in his little eyes around Christmastime. He is dazzled by the lights and gifts and songs. I didn’t realize a boy who just turned one could be so captivated by it all, but even at that young age, God has instilled and planted a sense of wonder into his heart.
I believe God places wonder into every one of our hearts at the youngest of ages, yet so often the cares of this world and worries of this life slowly steal our wonder and life turns into more of a mode of stress and drudgery and duty. This Christmas, I want to let go of the stress, the obligations, and everything that hinders us from fully stepping into joy and worship and beauty. I want to let my heart be free and to lift my eyes in wonder to the heavens as I consider all that God has done and as I remember that starry night long ago in Bethlehem. I want to see evergreen trees as an image of everlasting life. I want to see gifts as reminders of the greatest gift- God’s only Son. I want to treasure family and friends and truly sing songs of praise to my King. I want to be filled to overflowing with awe and wonder. I want to have child-like faith and enthusiasm for the little things.
In 1933 in the middle of Appalachia in Murphy, North Carolina, a man by the name of John Jacob Niles heard a young traveling evangelist singer, Annie Morgan. This is from his unpublished autobiography:
A girl had stepped out to the edge of the little platform attached to the automobile. She began to sing. Her clothes were unbelievable dirty and ragged, and she, too, was unwashed. Her ash-blond hair hung down in long skeins…. But, best of all, 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 a song.
Niles asked young Annie to sing the song over and over again, until he memorized it. Some sources say she repeated the verse seven times in a row, for a quarter each time. Niles went away having three lines of a verse and a hint of a melody in his head, as well as an idea for the rest of the song…He went on to finish writing it and published it in 1934 in Songs of the HIll-Folk. We all know the song today as “I Wonder as I Wander”. I just had to share the lyrics here, as we are focusing today on “Wonder”. Though this song is not the “whimsical” type of wonder that I think of at Christmas, it is meditative, evocative, and poignant- drawing our hearts to Christ our King and the miracle that His birth was, leading ultimately to His death on the cross for us and resurrection so that we might have life forever. May this song once again stir your heart to Wonder.
I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior 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 heav’n for to sing,
He surely could have it, ’cause he was the King.