I WONDER AS I WANDER
The Story Behind the Song
One of my favorite books of all time is "Jacob Have I Loved' by Katherine Paterson. I think I have read it at least 300 times (not kidding). One of my favorite parts of the story is when the twin sisters are singing in their school Christmas concert. I want to quote a little bit of that part because it describes so aptly what I felt the first time I heard this haunting melody.
"...from the center of the back-row Caroline's voice came suddenly like a single beam of light across the darkness.... It was a lonely, lonely sound, but so clear, so beautiful that I tightened my arms against my sides to keep from shaking, perhaps shattering....She sang once more by herself, repeating the words of the first verse so quietly that I knew surely I would shatter when she went up effortlessly, sweetly, and, oh, so softly, to the high G, holding it just a few seconds longer than humanly possible and then returning to the last few notes and to silence.... When we left the gymnasium, the stars were so bright, they pulled me up into the sky like powerful magnets. I walked, my head back, my own flat chest pressed up against the bosom of heaven, dazzled by the winking brilliance of the night. "I wonder as I wonder...."
Can you see why it's my favorite book? For years, every time I read that description, I knew I had to write an arrangement of that song. It is unquestionably my favorite Christmas song, and no one can seem to understand why. I love the beauty of the unusual Aeolian melody, the modulations and the unresolved suspensions. To me, it perfectly embodies the wonder of that first Christmas night, when the Savior of all mankind would suffer himself to come down among us, in the humblest of circumstances, out of love for you and me. Every time I find myself outside on a cold, winter night, I can't help but gaze up into the star-filled sky and think about the amazing miracle of the Savior's birth, and the even more amazing miracle that He did all these things out of love for "poor ornery people" like me. I wonder as I wander....
I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die
For poor ornery 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
And 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.
Who is this King of whom angels sing?
That comes to live and die for me.
This child in a stall, the Savior of all.
On bended knee I come unto thee.