Hermine Saunders: I wonder as I wander

Do you remember when we were children and how much excitement and wonder were generated by the very thought of Christmas and the gifts we might receive?
I remember one Christmas in particular -- I was 14 -- when I received the surprise and joy of my young life. On Christmas morning, very early, I ran down our circular stairs to find, to my wondering eyes, a beautiful desk, a mere 23 by 44 inches, but with eight drawers on the sides and one in the middle. I screamed with delight at the marvel before my eyes.
The wonderment of this desk lies in the fact that, poor as we were, my mother determined to give me a gift of permanence that remained with me through all my schooling, including my doctorate, and that I have kept to this day in my library. It now houses many photographic memories.
As I think about Christmas this year, I wonder: Have we lost our sense of wonder? Have we seen so many marvels in our lifetime that there is little that makes us gasp in wonderment? After all, we have watched in astonishment as man has walked on the moon. We have marveled as conjoined twins have been separated to live into normal adulthood. And, we are fascinated as we "skype" with friends and loved ones on the other side of the world, as if we can almost reach out and touch them.
These examples of the myriads of scientific, medical and technological wonders may have left us feeling overwhelmed by the advancements rather than amazed at the miracles they bring. Or, perhaps we just take for granted all the advancements without thinking about their implications for miracles in our lives. We should realize that there is still so much more to see and to do, that we mortals have just barely scratched the surface of wonderment.
For example, I gasped in amazement when I read in the Sept. 13, 2013 Carroll County Times that the Voyager 1 space probe, launched in 1977, had escaped the sun's influence and had left the solar system, "as it is commonly understood," perhaps a year before. But it still has 40,000 years to go before reaching the nearest star, Alpha Centauri.
I am likewise fascinated by Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic that will launch next year to carry ordinary people, who have a mere $250,000 per person, into space. These things are marvels of our present world.
Because it is the Christmas season, I am also reminded of a 2,000-year-old wonder as expressed in the Appalachian North Carolina folk carol, written in 1933 by John Jacob Niles. A carol that has been sung beautifully by Vanessa Williams and a number of others, the first stanza's words are these:
"I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky."
My Christmas greeting is to remember that no matter how old we are, we need to retain our sense of wonder as we wander out under the sky!

Recommended on Baltimore Sun