Advent Devotional Dec 12: I Wonder as I Wander

I Wonder as I Wander

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQqp6hpBpd8

 

I wonder as I wander out under the sky

How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die

For poor on’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 shepherds and all

But 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 heaven to sing

He surely could have it, ’cause he was the King

 

I wonder as I wander out under the sky

How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die

For poor on’ry people like you and like I;

I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

 

This carol causes in me two different reactions.  The first is that I love the music of it, the feel it creates in me, the way it speaks to my own wondering and wanderings.  I will come back to that but first I feel a need to speak to my other reaction.  It is unfair to place this critique solely at the feet of this single carol, but something about spending time with its words particularly took me to the place of dis-ease I get with the conventional nativity scene. 

 In four Gospels there are four different ways of treating the birth of Jesus.  Mark completely ignores it.  John the Baptist starts preaching and Jesus pops onto the scene as an adult ready to engage his ministry. 

 John’s birth story is really a birth of the world story – John gives us a creation story through the Word and then in reverse that the Word that gave birth to the world is now made flesh within that world.   John never speaks of birth, doesn’t name Mary and Joseph or stables and shepherds, no angels or wise men. 

 Our infancy narratives really come solely from Matthew and Luke and the focus on completely different parts of the story.  Even this however is a misnomer.  There is not an infancy narrative in Matthew either.  Matthew has the foretelling of the child to Joseph but that is all it says about the “birth of Jesus” which it actually skips and then tells the story of the Wise Men (not three just a plural number).  They actually don’t arrive to see the child until Jesus is a older… not older than two but probably close to two years old.  We only know this because based on what the wise men tell Herod of the star he guesses that the child is under two (and then precedes to kill all children under two to be safe that the “king” is dead and no longer a threat to his rule – this sets Jesus in motion down to Egypt until he too can be recalled from Exile in Egypt to the land of promise).  The wise men story introduces the star (the real messenger in this account) and finally find Mary and the child in a house, not a stable. 

 So we come to Luke – Luke of the in-depth infancy narrative.  Luke gives us the conception of John and Jesus, the songs of Mary and Zechariah, and the major mover of this infancy narrative is the shepherds and angels (as opposed to wise men and stars).  And in this account – and only this account – do we encounter the baby, in a manger, in a stable. 

 Our carol today sort of mixes all that together.  Which isn’t wrong.  But it cause me to want to clarify the story, to make sure that in the hurry of our lives we don’t forget this all took longer than a single night, and it all isn’t just a single pretty scene, and to different Gospels it isn’t even all even necessary to Jesus’ story. 

 That point made… let me return to the carol – or rather let me wander with it.  Because there is something beautiful in the way it acknowledges that whether shepherds or wise men we are all wandering.  Wandering in our life in search of meaning – in search of our place – in search of our purpose.  Whether it’s a star or an angel, a house or a stable, the birth of Jesus draws us in from our wandering to find all that we are searching for in the knowledge that our purpose, our place, our way is not out there – but it lies within us.  Because God came to us, God who could have anything, chose to come to us because we are worth hanging out with and we are the place and purpose for creation. 

 We have no need to wander to find meaning – the meaning lies inside us.  This is the secret perhaps to incarnation, that the meaning of life doesn’t lie beyond this world, or beyond the horizon, but right HERE!  And that the life of Christ tells us we are worth dying for, but even more importantly, we are worth living for!

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About Andrew Kukla

I am the proud father of four wonderful children, loving husband to Caroline, brother to three mostly wonderful sisters, and son of two parents that gifted me with a foundation of love and freedom. I also am a Presbyterian pastor and former philosophy major with a love of too many words (written with many grammatical errors and parenthetic thoughts), Soren Kierkegaard, and reflections on living a life of discipleship that is open to all the challenges, ups and downs, brokenness and grace, of a chaotic and wonderful life founded upon the love of God for all of creation.

Posted on December 12, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Lynda Lynch Kukla

    Thanks, Andrew, for writing so eloquently on one of my all-time favorite carols.

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