Summary: This is the final message in a series based on some of the most popular Christmas hymns.
This is a Christmas carol written by folklorist and singer John Jacob Niles. The carol has its origins in a song fragment collected by Niles on July 16, 1933. This is the story behind the song. In the middle of the summer in 1933, the Morgans, a poor homeless family in Murphy, North Carolina, was trying to scrape together enough money to buy the gas to drive out of town. The people of Murphy had complained about how the Morgans made their home in the middle of the city. They had even hung their laundry out to dry on a monument in the town square. The police were ordered to evict them from their unlikely temporary home in the town center, but they did not have enough money to leave. Mr. Morgan was a preacher and some of the area churches got together to put on a fundraiser.
During this fundraiser, little Annie Morgan came out and sang the first three lines of the first verse of “I Wonder as I Wander.” After hearing the song a few times, Niles had written down the words. Those few words that had impressed him, Niles turned into the full version of “I Wonder as I Wander” that we hear today. Niles performed the full version of the song for the first time on December 19, 1933. The song would be published for the first time in 1944. This song has been recorded more than thirty times over the past sixty years and continues to grow in popularity.
That night more than two-thousand years ago in the little village of Bethlehem caused wonder and amazement for everyone that heard about it. I am sure Mary wondered about all the events that had taken place. If we are truly honest, there are some nagging questions concerning that night in Bethlehem that we wonder about. Today, I would like us to look closely at some of the things about that first Christmas that cause us wonder and amazement.
I. One has to wonder about all the unusual events that took place that night in Bethlehem.
A. The baby being born of a virgin.
1. The virgin birth was prophesied but this sign was so unmistakable that it leaves no doubt that God is involved and this child would be His Son.
2. Since the announcement that she would have a child, Mary has been caught up in a whirlwind.
a. She deals with the idea of being pregnant before she is married.
b. She deals with the idea of the baby being conceived by the Holy Spirit.
3. The wonder and amazement for her continues as she encounters others that God uses to reveal just a little more information about her child.
4. We are told in our text with each new bit of information gained; Mary treasures them up and ponders them in her heart.
5. The Greek word translated treasure means to protect or to hold in one’s memory. So she tucks it away in her memory so she can think about it or ponder it.
B. The baby being born in a stable.
1. The stable is not nearly as important in the narrative as the manger or feeding trough is. This was the sign that would identify the child and let the shepherds know that everything the angels told them was true.
2. Although the manger could be made clean and lined with straw to make it cozy for a baby, this would not be the first choice of any new mother.
3. This manger was the concrete verification of everything the shepherds had been told. Is it any wonder that the shepherds gave Mary more to ponder?
4. Lewis Foster in his commentary on Luke expresses the importance of the manger this way. “Jesus was identified with the most humble, lowly beginning when they laid Him in a manger. Of all the details Luke could have told us about the birth of Christ, he chose this—the manger.”
5. Perhaps the manger allows us to begin to understand how much Jesus left behind in order to come to this world and save us.
C. The information given in regard to the child’s identity.
1. Mary was told that the child was to be great and would be called the Son of God.
2. The Shepherds were given two bits of information about the child’s identity.
a. He would be a Savior.
b. He was the Messiah.
3. In the Jewish culture people pay attention to the significance of names. The name Jesus provides another clue to the child’s identity since it means “Yahweh saves.”
4. As Mary wandered through her life she probably wondered what the Lord had in store next as she continued to fit the pieces of the puzzle together.