“Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days– You would not believe if you were told.” Hababkuk 1:5
Murphy NC is a special place for me, though I never spent more than 15 minutes there. It is the closest North Carolina town from where I live in Georgia. When I drive through Murphy I take a deep breath of sweet fresh air because I am back in my home state again! Though I have lived the majority of my life outside of NC, the Tar Heel state will always be home.
At Christmas I am reminded that Murphy has a special meaning for a beautiful tune of the season. “I Wonder as I Wander” has its origins in a song fragment collected by folklorist and singer John Jacob Niles while he made a stop in Murphy.
Niles wrote, “A girl had stepped out to the edge of the little platform attached to the automobile. She began to sing. Her clothes were unbelievable dirty and ragged, and she, too, was unwashed. Her ash-blond hair hung down in long skeins…. But, best of all, she was beautiful, and in her untutored way, she could sing. She smiled as she sang, smiled rather sadly, and sang only a single line of a song.”
The girl, named Annie Morgan, repeated the fragment seven times in exchange for a quarter per performance, and Niles left with “three lines of verse, a garbled fragment of melodic material—and a magnificent idea.” He never saw her again even though he tried to find her.
Just as the prophet Habakkuk cried out for the people of his day to be astonished at a prophecy to be fulfilled, even more so the event of God becoming flesh in the birth of Jesus fills us with wonder.
Canton First UMC