Maybe it’s those four descending piano notes. Or the familiar phrases that stair-step with authority. Maybe the ever-surprising D7 chord? Any of these could make “His Name is Wonderful” timeless; the piece is beautifully crafted. It's held its ground as a model praise song for over 50 years.
But - beyond things technical or artistic - the song comes with an intangible sense of rightness. When we hear it, the Throne of God doesn’t seem distant. Audrey Mieir’s simple “His Name is Wonderful” has won a place in the hearts of millions and remained a favorite through times of stylistic and cultural turbulence.
Surprisingly, it's a Christmas song. And the story is as remarkable as the song itself.
In 1955, Christmas fell on a Sunday. The congregation was gathered for a home-spun Christmas program at Bethel Union Church in Duarte, California. Audrey’s brother in law Luther was the pastor.
Small shepherds had dressed in bathrobes; for staffs, they borrowed grandparents’ canes. A teenage Mary cradled a plastic doll. One grinning angel, wearing a crooked aluminum halo, waved at Mom and Dad in the second row. The choir, having sung about sleeping “in heavenly peace,” took their seats in reverent silence.
The pastor stood to address the little congregation; his heart was brimming with Isaiah 9:6.
“For unto us a child is born
unto us a Son is given
and the government will be on His shoulder
and His name shall be called Wonderful
Counselor, the Mighty God
the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
But Luther couldn’t get it out. With his eyes closed and hands raised, he broke the long silence and simply said, “His name is wonderful.”
“At that moving moment,” Audrey Mieir recalled, “I didn’t know a once-in-a-lifetime experience was about to happen.” She described a rustling sound - like angels’ wings - then heard a beautiful melody with simple, profound lyrics. She scribbled the words into the flyleaf of her Bible as quickly as her pen would give up its ink:
“His Name is Wonderful
His Name is Wonderful
His Name is Wonderful
Jesus my Lord
He is the mighty King
Master of everything
His name is Wonderful
Jesus my Lord”
Having written many songs before and since, Audrey couldn’t recall a piece making it’s debut like this. That night, she taught the chorus to her youth group; they gathered around the piano and sang it. Days later - over a burger and a concordance - she completed the bridge:
“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.”
In the following years, the song was translated into every major dialect. Mieir heard it sung in four languages at the Vatican with the Pope. She fondly remembered it sung in the Garden of Gethsemane in Israel. In her travels, she found it had become a favorite in Taiwan, Sweden, Korea and the Philippines. The author once heard thousands of students in Hong Kong sing it from their roof-top schools.
Explo ’72 was a historic Jesus-Movement event in at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. One evening ended early because of a torrential downpour and thunderstorm. While leaving the the stadium, a rain-soaked crowd of seventy thousand spontaneously lifted “His Name is Wonderful” in the storm.
Looking back at Christmas of 1955, Audrey said, “I didn’t foresee the ministry one little song of praise could have.”
Mieir remembered a bookselling tour. “I saw a little old lady. When she saw me, she came as fast as she could to the piano. She explained that she and her husband had sung together when they were young.” Their repertoire had included Mieir’s song.
In their later years, the husband would say, “’His Name is Wonderful’ is my favorite song ever written. Don’t forget.”
She said a day came when she was standing by her husband’s hospital bed. “He looked up,” she told Mieir, and said, “'let’s sing it one more time. Our favorite song.'”
“His voice was beautiful, like it was when he was young. Then - all of a sudden - he died…while he was singing your song, Audrey."
A man had entered the presence of Jesus singing, His Name is Wonderful, Jesus My Lord.
“I put my arms around that little lady and prayed for her,” Mieir said. “I never saw her again, but I knew I’d meet her in heaven someday.”
On November 5, 1996, Audrey herself went to be with her Lord. I had the honor of interviewing Audrey a few weeks before she died. She told me, “The song will outlive the chubby human hands chosen to write a few black notes on five lines and four spaces. But it will never outlive the Father, who glories in His Son’s name and glories in our praise.”
A powerful praise song was delivered on Christmas in Duarte accompanied by the sound of angels’ wings.
Could anything be better? I think so.
A Saint returned to her Maker, offering HIM that same praise...but now face-to-face.