In 1933, a group of traveling revivalists called “The Morgan Family” camped in the town square of Morgan, N.C., and hung their wash from the Confederate Monument. They were asked to leave. Pleading poverty, they asked permission to hold one more service. At that service, a lovely girl with unwashed blond hair sang three lines of a song.
In the audience sat John Jacob Niles, a collector of mountain folk songs. After the service, he gave her a quarter to sing the song again. She didn’t know where she got the song and only knew a few lines and fragments. Niles never found the source, but he enlarged on what he heard.
The result was the song, “I Wonder as I Wander,” which often is sung at Christmas. Here’s how it goes: “I wonder as I wander out under the sky/why Jesus the Savior came down for to die/for poor ornery people like you and like I/I wonder as I wander out under the sky.” Jesus said, “To this end was I born and for this purpose came into the world.” That still causes us to wonder.
Mike Shannon is dean of the Russell School of Ministry and professor of preaching at Cincinnati Christian University in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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