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I Wonder As I Wander

This week continues our focus on the birth of Christ with the hymn, “I Wonder As I Wander”, composed by John Jacob Niles in 1933. The hymn is based on fragments of an Appalachian folk song Niles heard while visiting the town of Murphy, North Carolina. These fragments became verse one of the hymn, and he wrote additional verses to complete the hymn we know today.

John Jacob Niles was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1892. He grew up in a musical family, learning music theory from his mother. He began composing in the folk song style while still an adolescent. When he was older, he traveled the Appalachians, transcribing the many folk songs he heard and collected. Niles served in the US Army Air Service during World War I. He was injured during the war and remained in France to study music. Upon returning to the United States, he finished his musical studies at the Cincinnati Conservatory School of Music. He started working as an assistant photographer to Doris Ulmann, where he continued collecting Folksongs as they traveled through the Appalachians.

I wonder as I wander, out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die
For poor, orn’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 shepherd and all.
But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall,
The promise of ages it did then 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.

I wonder as I wander, out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die
For poor orn’ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander, out under the sky.

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His  only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3:16

6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:6-7


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