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I Wonder As I Wander

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

Text: John Jacob Niles (1892 - 1980), based on a traditional song fragment collected in Appalachia, 1933
Music by John Jacob Niles
I had to giggle when I saw my name next to this song. Of all the Christmas carols, I can’t think of a more perfect one to contemplate as I approach my one-year anniversary of becoming a “digital nomad”.

In January 2022 I sold the house I shared with my mom in Richmond, VA. She moved to a retirement community while I planned to test the idea that I could do my job anywhere as long as I have an internet connection. I packed everything that would fit into my tiny car and headed south to Asheville—ironically, the same region of western North Carolina where composer and folklorist John Jacob Niles first heard a fragment of an Appalachian song that would later become “I Wonder as I Wander”.

I’ve had ample opportunity to do both over the last year, wondering and wandering with miles of road ahead of me. Alone in the car I had the opportunity to reflect on life in These Times, and the once hidden fissures and cracks that the Pandemic revealed. I thought about what it means to get back to normal, and if it’s possible to find a new normal that better serves people’s needs.

I think the words of this carol speak a bit to this tension. The first verse mentions, “Poor on’ry people like you and like I”, suggesting a sense of discomfort or dissatisfaction, followed by a reminder in the second verse of God’s light that shined down over Jesus’s birth, and “the promise of ages”, the promise of God’s redeeming love. 

Prayer: Lord, be our guide and our light as we journey through life. Watch over us. Keep us free from harm to body and soul. Support us with Your grace when we are tired. Help us be patient in any trouble which may come our way. Keep us always mindful of Your presence and love. Amen.

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