History of Hymns: 'His Name is Wonderful'
By Lucas Eaton and C. Michael Hawn
“His Name Is Wonderful”
By Audrey Mae Mieir
The United Methodist Hymnal, 174
Chorus & Bridge:
His name is Wonderful, His name is Wonderful,
His name is Wonderful, Jesus my Lord;
Jesus my Lord. He’s the great Shepherd,
the Rock of all ages, Almighty God is He; Bow down before Him,
Love and adore Him, His name is Wonderful, Jesus, my Lord
*© 1971 Manna Music, Inc. All rights reserved.
“His Name Is Wonderful” is a gospel song composed by Audrey Mae Mieir (née Wagner) [1916–1996], an evangelical pianist and ordained minister in the International Church of Foursquare Gospel. Mieir also composed gospel songs such as “I’ll Never Be Lonely” (1962) and “All He Wants Is You” (“Something more than gold for the Master,” 1967).
Mieir attended Bethel Union Church in Duarte, California, where her brother-in-law, Dr. Luther Mieir, was the pastor. This small congregation organized a presentation of the Christmas story for December 25, 1955, prompting Mieir to compose the song:
The church was decorated with pine boughs. The choir loft had been converted into a manger scene, and we had chosen to use young people to present the story. As the morning service began, I was almost overwhelmed with the fragrance, the sound, and most of all, with the gentle moving of the Holy Spirit, in that church. The pastor stood to his feet, opened the Bible, and said, “His name shall be called Wonderful!” I tell you the truth, that is all it took, I wrote the words and music on the flyleaf of my Bible (Gray, 1992, p. 139).
The song was published by Manna Music Production a few months later in 1959, and later appeared in the Baptist Hymnal (1975), where the tune as given the name MIEIR by the hymnal’s editor, William Reynolds. According to Hymnary.org, the song has appeared in thirty-four hymnals since its production and distribution by Manna Music in 1959.
Audrey Mae Wagner was born in Leechburg, Pennsylvania, and received her education from L.I.F.E. Bible College (Meridian, Idaho). As a young woman, she moved to California where she was influenced by Aimee Semple McPherson (1890–1944), founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. Following her marriage to Charles B. Mieir in 1936, she was ordained to the gospel ministry in the International Church of Foursquare Gospel (1937), serving as an evangelistic pianist for radio and personal appearances (1937–1945). She worked with musician and evangelist Phil Kerr (1906–1960) during this time, establishing with him the Monday Musicals in 1945, a show held in Pasadena, California, that featured a wide range of talented Christian vocalists and instrumentalists. Mieir organized various gospel choirs from 1946–1958, including the Harmony Chorus and became the director of the Mieir Choir Clinics in 1959, held in Hollywood, California. As music director for Pentecostal television evangelist Rex Humbard (1919–2007), she was featured on his television show Cathedral of Tomorrow, the actual cathedral built in 1958 in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. She established the Mieir Music Foundation, Inc., in Hollywood, for which she was the vice-president beginning in 1960 (Gray, 1992, p. 408). She died in Irvine, California. She was known for helping to found two orphanages in Korea and bringing Korean children to the United States for adoption. She and her husband Charles adopted two Korean-born siblings for their son Mike (Warner, 2000, n.p.).
“His Name Is Wonderful” does not follow the usual stanza-refrain form. Instead, it exists as a chorus with a bridge. Mieir wrote the chorus section for the original presentation of the Christmas story. But when looking to publish the song, publisher Tim Spencer told her “[it] was a good song but it needed a bridge” (Terry, 2002, pp. 55–56). She did not at first know what Spencer meant, so he continued saying, “the song would be much more a blessing if you included an extension to the chorus, you have written” (Terry, 2002, pp. 55–56).
Much like “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God” (1972) by Karen Lafferty (b. 1948) written over a decade later, “His Name Is Wonderful” became known as a pioneering example of what would later become known as contemporary Christian music (CCM). While many scholars find the roots of CCM in the 1960s Jesus Movement (Scheer, 2013, p. 175), Pentecostal musicians like Mieir were writing gospel songs like this one in the preceding decade. However, in the 1950s, the CCM terminology was not yet in use, and these shorter songs were referred to simply as choruses or gospel songs. Many of these early songs resonated with the charismatic music and worship practices of the Jesus Movement, making a place for shorter forms like “His Name Is Wonderful” in congregational song repertoire. The song is a precursor to what would eventually be called a praise chorus.
A number of artists recorded this song (see “Selected Recordings” below). More recently, Carman (Carmelo Domenic Licciardello, 1956–2021) recorded the song, though without reference to Christmas. Commercial artists such as Chris Tomlin (b. 1972) and Lauren Daigle (b. 1991) continue this theme, though with different music on their album A Christmas Alleluia (2016).
The refrain of the song was inspired by the prophecy of a Savior in Isaiah 9:6, “For us a child is born . . . and he will be called Wonderful” (NIV ). Like many other gospel choruses, the main theme (“hook”), “His name is Wonderful,” is reiterated several times—in this case three, each time higher than the previous—before finishing with “Jesus my Lord.” This simple biblical theme is set to an accessible melody. Like other contemporary Christian songs, this chorus may be repeated as many times as desired to help create a feeling of trance, giving the Holy Spirit time to move.
The second part of the refrain text and the bridge shift from declaring Jesus as “Wonderful” to naming God in different ways with descriptions of God’s power. These include “shepherd and rock of the ages,” alluding to Psalm 23:1 and Psalm 18:2, respectively. Liturgically, the song functions as a song of adoration and celebration. While it was written and remains popular on Christmas day, it could be used at other times in the Christian calendar.
Regardless of when or how the song is used, “His Name Is Wonderful” continues to be sung after six decades. Through this song, Meier’s influence has made a lasting contribution to contemporary Christian music.
- Carman (Carmelo Domenic Licciardello) —solo with choir: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5uEsaienyU&t=3s
- The Centurymen, Arr. Buryl Red (orchestral): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auFqQKUgHA0&t=13s
- The Imperials (male gospel quartet): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiTLFOXFVhA&t=53s
- The Kempters (CCM in a medley): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7RKFQxmx10&t=146s
- Alvin Martinez (gospel solo medley): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0dF9ylgAcg&t=50s
Scotty W. Gray, “His name is Wonderful” and “Mieir, Audrey Mae,” Handbook to the Baptist Hymnal, ed. Gere Adams (Nashville, Tennessee: Convention Press, 1992).
“His Name Is Wonderful,” Hymnary.org, https://hymnary.org/text/his_name_is_wonderful.
Greg Scheer, “Shout to the Lord: Praise and Worship from Jesus People to Gen X,” in New Songs of Celebration Render: Congregational Song in the Twenty-first Century, ed. C. Michael Hawn (Chicago: GIA Publications, Inc., 2013).
Lindsay Terry, The Sacrifice of Praise: Stories behind the Greatest Praise and Worship Songs of All Time (Nashville, TN: Integrity Publishers, 2002).
Wayne Warner, “Audrey Mieir,” Charisma (2000), https://www.charismamag.com/site-archives/24-uncategorised/9425-audrey-meir (accessed June 24, 2021).
Lucas Eaton is an alumnus of the Master of Sacred Music degree program at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, where he studied hymnology with Dr. Marcell Steuernagel.
C. Michael Hawn, D.M.A., F.H.S., is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Church Music and Adjunct Professor, and Director, Doctor of Pastoral Music Program at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.
 Verses marked NIV are from the New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.