2020 Advent Devotional – Day 7


I Wonder as I Wander
Traditional Appalachian carol; words by John Jacob Niles, 1933

Video: I Wonder as I Wander


According to John Jacob Niles, the songwriter who arranged and crafted the carol we sing today, he first came across the origin of the piece in circumstances of extreme poverty: from an evangelical revivalist preacher and his family, being run out of town but without enough gas in their car to leave.

A girl from the family stepped forward to sing, a fragmented and wistful melody, not even a complete song. The girl agreed to repeat her song for 25 cents per performance until eight performances later Niles had his inspiration and the family presumably had the money for gas.

The poverty of the song’s origins weaves through the words and there is a sense of bewilderment in the lyrics, of the intermingling of the divine and the prosaic. The lyrics blend characters from the nativity with elements of everyday life, emphasising the narrator’s perplexity that a king would find himself in such basic surroundings; that a king, who surely could have anything he desired, would end up dying for “poor ord’n’ry people.”

Well, might the narrator wonder, for it is indeed a wonder – this astounding, abundant Christmas gift that is Christ.

How do we comprehend the wonder of it all? The wonder and amazement of God’s promise of the ages and for the ages. The magnitude of God’s love, and the sweeping inclusiveness of God’s grace, given freely for people everywhere, given personally for you and me.

The wonder of God’s love is central to the Advent journey, and appreciating this is not something to be rushed. Wonder calls us to pause and reflect and to try to absorb the immensity of it all. Wonder invites us to add reverence to our excitement and to soak in the wondrous, wonderful gift that awaits.

Further reading on the history of this work:

Wonderful God,
I cannot always understand the vastness of your love, embracing the whole world with all its flaws and troubles. I cannot always imagine the intimacy of your love, given to me and for me. I do not always accept the hope provided by your love. Awaken my heart to the wonder of your love and concern for me. Help me recognize the immensity of your love, and find time each day to pause in wondrous praise. Amen.


The lyrics to “I Wonder as I Wander” can be found online at websites such as: CHRISTMAS CAROLS – I WONDER AS I WANDER LYRICS (songlyrics.com)

Walton YouTube If you’re enjoying the carols each day, there’s now a YouTube playlist you can listen to that contains all the carols shared so far. The playlist will grow as the devotional series progresses, with each day’s carol being added. By Christmas Day, you’ll have the perfect soundtrack of worship and praise.  Click here to listen.

Thank you for joining us on this prayerful path through Advent.
Blessings and best wishes for 2021.

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