This 18th-century gospel hymn is still relevant today.
It’s easy to see why the Christmas season is kicked-off on Thanksgiving, as this holiday is all about giving thanks for what we have and thankfully giving to those in need. Each year, communities around the country gather millions of pounds of food in shelters, food banks, non-profit organizations, and schools in order to ensure that everyone can partake in the feast.
As we gather around the Thanksgiving table to give thanks for all that we have, our minds may naturally turn to those who have fallen on hard times. It is important to remember these people in our prayers. After all, as Saint Teresa of Calcutta taught us:
Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening; this is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.
With this in mind, we bring you “Wayfaring Stranger,” a song which perfectly captures the desperation of those who have nothing, as well as the faith which can abound even when circumstances are dire.
I am a poor, wayfaring stranger
Traveling through this world alone
And there’s no sickness, toil or danger
In that bright land to which I go
Ed Sheeran gave this incredible live vocal in 2011. He sings the whole song a cappella, using a loop pedal to record the harmony vocal lines before singing the tune. Halfway through he uses a moment to make the harmony a little more intricate, but we especially liked how he sang the final chorus unaccompanied. As the tune is about a person who is alone in the world, with little to look forward to beyond the next life, this one-man band performance is a fitting arrangement of this timeless song.
“Wayfaring Stranger” may be the perfect anthem for those who live on the streets, practically forgotten by society. Just as these people live in relative obscurity, the author of “Wayfaring Stranger” is unknown. Nor is it known exactly how old the song is, but it is estimated to have been sung for more than 200 years.
If you’re looking for a more standard version of “Wayfaring Stranger,” it doesn’t get much better than Johnny Cash. Take a listen below to have the “Man in Black’s” rumbling baritone voice bring you to tears.
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