Article

“Jesus, Jesus, Oh, What a Wonderful Child”

Hymn Study
by Dean McIntyre

TITLE: "Jesus, Jesus, Oh, What a Wonderful Child"
AUTHOR: Traditional African American
TUNE: WONDERFUL CHILD
COMPOSER: Traditional African American; arr. Jeffrey Radford
SOURCE: Worship & Song, no. 3060
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 2:14; Luke 2: 8-20
TOPICS: Angels; awe and wonder; heavens; meek; mild; new life;

Background

This Black Gospel-styled Christmas song is of unknown origin. Some collections (including Worship & Song) list it as being of traditional African American origin. At least one source claims that it was written by Sister Margaret Allison of the Angelic Gospel Singers, an African American recording and performing group in the early 1950s, although this cannot be confirmed. It is possible that Allison's original song, "Glory to the Newborn King," recorded with the Angelics on Gotham Records, over the years has morphed into "Jesus, Oh, What a Wonderful Child." The best-known version is probably that of Mariah Carey on her 1994 Merry Christmas album. It has also been recorded by Gladys Knight and performed by the Three Mo' Tenors on their PBS television special.

Words

The version in Worship & Song is of the refrain only. The lyrics are in an AABBB rhyme scheme. They speak of Jesus as holy, meek, mild, bringing new life and hope, ending with the song of the angels. There are several verses also available. These fill in other details of the Christmas story:

He was herald by the angels
Born in a lowly manger
The virgin Mary was His mother
And Joseph was his earthly father
Three wise men came from afar
They were guided by a shining star
To see King Jesus where He lay
In a manger filled with hay

Oh Jesus, Jesus, Mary's baby,
Lamb of God, Heavenly Child,
Jesus, Jesus, I Love Him;
Oh Jesus, Almighty God, King of kings;
Oh Jesus, Oh Jesus, Oh, oh, oh, Jesus
Wonderful, wonderful one
Oh, oh, Oh Jesus, Oh Jesus, Son of God;
Oh Jesus, Glory, Glory, Glory to the
new born King, yeah...

Music

The song is in a heavily rhythmic 12/8 meter resulting from the triplet subdivision of a 4/4 meter. The melody is unusually restricted, consisting almost entirely of the notes G, A and B plus the lowered third of Bb. The melody rises and climaxes on a D in the "Glory, glory, glory" angels’ song. The harmony in the congregation’s Pew Edition as well as the accompaniment in the Accompaniment Edition makes effective use of the melodic third and the diminished-seventh harmony.

Sources

Categories: Hymn Studies