Sunday, January 15, 2023

Stars and Electrons

I wrote this poem March 15, 2003. I have always been fascinated and amazed by the sheer massiveness of the stars and galaxies. I was even more amazed in the introduction to chemistry in college when we learned about atoms. I had learned about them in science class previously, and I remember learning in elementary that the atoms in one grain of sand were more numerous than all the leaves on all the trees in the world. In college, our textbook said that if you were to expand an atom to the size of a football stadium, the nucleus would be the size of the period at the end of this sentence. I forget how many tons the nucleus would weigh. The electrons that orbit the nucleus are even smaller! Stars and electrons, despite their massive distance in size, both mindbogglingly gigantic and mindbogglingly microscopic, have a lot in common.

NGC 4414, a galaxy in the constellation
Coma Berenices
Image by NASA

Titanic balls of fire
Placed by God in the heavens
Mere specks in His eyes
They glow in the sky
Far larger than I can imagine

How is it that the God who is so much larger than the stars
Can care for me -
One who is a mere speck
Compared to the stars?

The stars orbit in an endless round
In their clusters and galaxies they orbit
And the God who made these galaxies
Huge beyond my imagination
Cared enough to send His only Son
To die for me!

Tiny balls of matter
Placed by God in the atoms
So much smaller than specks in our eyes
So much tinier than we could begin to imagine

Electrons orbit in an endless round
In large numbers they orbit
Around the nucleus of the atom
The atom - like a galaxy to the electron
And how many atoms are in a single cell?
Countless millions of atoms in a single grain of sand!

How is it that the God who created the unimaginably humongous galaxies
Also created the unimaginably tiny electrons?

What a wonder
That such an amazing Creator God
Could care enough
To send His only Son
To die on a cross for me!

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Night Falls on Wireless Advocates

In his novel The Last Battle, CS Lewis concludes his Chronicles of Narnia with a dark ending and a glorious new beginning. It has a chapter called "Night Falls on Narnia," in which most of the humans from England that we have met throughout the series are gathered around a door looking through it to the dying land of Narnia. The great Lion Aslan has just called to the giant Father Time, way off in the distance, who blows his massive horn. Stars come shooting out of the sky, and walk through the door as living beings. The inhabitants of Narnia and the surrounding countries come racing up to the door, and with one look at Aslan, either flee in terror or come through to marvel at the wonders around them. Waters rise, and the sun devours the moon. Father Time then squeezes the sun out, and all is blackness and water and ice on the other side of the door. Aslan tells High King Peter to shut the door and lock it, which he does. Queen Lucy and King Tirian mourn the country they have loved and ruled at different times in Narnia's history.

While I don't want to carry the analogy too far, a major part of my life over the past 5+ years has come to an end, and night is falling on Wireless Advocates. While it's nowhere near the apocalyptic end that the old Narnia had in The Last Battle, it has been very tough to watch and experience. Over 1800 employees around the country found out at the beginning of last month that their jobs had abruptly ended. We at national headquarters were given 60 days notice, per the WARN Act, and we were to be employed through February 5. Yesterday, around 65 of us (I forget the exact number, but it was in the 60s) were summoned to a meeting called by the receiver assigned to help liquidate WA's assets. They informed us that they had determined that we were not protected by the WARN Act, and they had decided to let us go. (They are double checking with the King County courts to verify this is appropriate, and they have a contingency plan in the event the courts disagree. Seattle is the county seat of King County.) It caught everyone, including management, by surprise. Wireless Advocates' executives disagreed strongly with their decision and fought it, but the receiver had the final say.

Over the past day that I have had to process this shocking development, close down business affairs, sleep on it, consider where to go from here, I have gone through a lot of emotions. While I always like to remain optimistic, this was a severe blow. There have been tears. I have felt a gamut of emotions, including sadness, anger, fear, and as I continue to process, hope. I do not fault Wireless Advocates, or even Costco, for what has gone down. I appreciate how supportive our management and executive team has been through all of this, and I still could not have asked for a better employer over the past years. They have fought for us, and done everything in their power to make this as painless as possible (though, admittedly, there's only so much they can do). I continue to be amazed and eternally grateful for how helpful and supportive everyone has been, even after many of them lost their own jobs, to help.

To help dispel some rumors I have seen flying around the internet, one article I read stated that Costco was "blindsided" by Wireless Advocates when WA announced they were closing. It was actually Costco's decision not to renew their contract with us. I don't fault Costco for that, as I'm sure they had their reasons, but I definitely don't think WA deserves all the negative press they have been receiving. My theory is that individual Costcos had no warning, so were indeed just as shocked as everyone else to find the WA kiosks were closed. But this decision came from Costco, not WA. Due to declining demand due to COVID and less demand for 5G than expected, WA decided to end their relationship with military bases. There was blindsiding happening, but it was not Wireless Advocates blindsiding Costco. In the interest of remaining as positive as possible, I am not here to point the finger.

I'm not sure how many are left at the national headquarters, but there are a few people remaining who will continue to work on closing down the business.

Yesterday afternoon, I worked on closing things down on my side, filing for unemployment, and preparing for job searching in earnest. I have sent resumes over the past couple weeks, but that has been in addition to responsibilities at work and other things. Like Lucy and Tirian, I am mourning for the home I have known over the past few years.

Back to The Last Battle. The Friends of Narnia are in mourning. As Tirian eloquently puts it, "It were no virtue, but great discourtesy, if we did not mourn." But as they are joined by more friends, including the talking dogs, the Calormene Emeth (Calormen is a country south of Narnia), the eagle Farsight, the donkey Puzzle, the unicorn Jewel, and more, they are repeatedly encouraged to "Come further up and further in!" Flying high overhead, Farsight the Eagle discovers that, though they just witnessed the old Narnia's end, they are now in a much larger and grander version of Narnia. Everyone runs faster than they realized they could and marvels how they aren't tiring out, and at the wonders of the new world around them. A few years ago I painted one of my favorite scenes in the book, when they reach Caldron Pool and find themselves, much to everyone's shock, swimming up the waterfall!

Further Up and Further In!
Steven Sauke, 2012
Acrylic on canvas

They eventually find themselves in the garden where Polly and Digory flew with their friend Fledge the winged horse so many years ago (in The Magician's Nephew). There they are greeted by one of Narnia's greatest heroes, Reepicheep the Mouse. Tirian meets his late father once again, and they see everyone they once knew. Over a nearby lookout, Lucy and her old friend Tumnus the Faun see a new London on a cloud and her late parents waving to them. The final chapter is called "Farewell to Shadowlands." Though I'm not generally big on spoilers, the book ends thus:

“There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are–as you used to call it in the Shadowlands–dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

While I am thankfully not dead, Wireless Advocates will soon be. In many ways it already is. Now begins a new adventure. I choose to anticipate the future with wonder, looking forward to it with joy and run with all my might to discover what amazing adventure is about to start.

To all my amazing former colleagues, I say, FURTHER UP AND FURTHER IN! Let's do this thing! We haven't scratched the surface of the amazing adventure that is coming! How will Chapter One of your Great Story begin?

Friday, January 13, 2023

Your Smile

My college friend Jenny Paulson had the most radiant smile. She brightened everyone around her, and I count it an honor to have known her. She lived life to the fullest. She was a great friend in college when I knew her, and her special needs students at the elementary where she taught loved her.

February 26, 2010, she was arriving at her school when her life was cut short by a murderer with a gun. I wrote this poem March 9 of that year, after attending her memorial. It is based on my memories of her and those of people who shared at the memorial. One thing that stuck with me from her memorial was when someone said that she lived life "on high octane." She touched so many lives. I know she's up in heaven dancing with her Savior, beaming as she always did in life.

Jenny Paulson
June 23, 1979 - February 26, 2010

Your passion for life
Your love of the Lord
Your care for all you met
These are your legacy

But I remember your smile
That smile that brightened my day
That smile that haunts me and inspires me
With one smile, the world could see:
Your passion for life
Your love of the Lord
Your care for all you met

In that smile are hundreds of memories
Different for each person you touched
Flying over the water on jet skis
And running out of gas on the lake
Remembering birthdays
And making sure they were celebrated
Inviting friends to church
Bringing them to Christ
Taking a break from your work
To eat lunch with your friends
Teaching children to read
And listening to their needs
Seeing the best in everyone
And loving without condition

Your smile touched more people than you know
And for that, I thank you
For that, I know that your smile
Is shining for all of heaven to see
As you smile and dance in the loving embrace of our loving Father
Whose smile is even bigger.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Pigmentary Degeneration of the Retina

My first grade teacher spoke with my parents. They were noticing that I was having trouble in class and wondered if I had trouble seeing. I didn't know any different, so didn't realize there was an issue. My face was nearly back to normal following the monkey attack earlier that year (though the monkey did just barely miss my eyes...that in itself was a miracle). So my parents took me to the ophthalmologist, who diagnosed me with pigmentary degeneration of the retina. (I was proud of myself for remembering what it was called at that age, as it is a mouthful.) More commonly known as retinitis pigmentosa, it is similar to its cousin macular degeneration, in which the vision slowly diminishes as the retina degenerates. The two conditions go in opposite directions. Where macular degeneration starts with the central vision and works outward, retinitis pigmentosa starts with the peripheral vision and works inward. Both conditions lead to blindness, and neither has a cure. My peripheral vision was starting to go, and the doctor predicted I would be blind by the time I was a teenager. I would never be able to drive. It's likely I was born with the condition. The news was devastating to my parents. They got multiple opinions, just to be sure, but everyone agreed. In October 1984, in first grade at the age of 6, I got my first glasses. The following day, we got our family picture:

I remember my first day going to school wearing glasses. I was embarrassed at first, and it would be years before I actually liked wearing them. With the humidity in the Philippines, where we lived at the time, we quickly discovered that my metal frames rusted due to sweat, so I would have plastic frames for the next few years. (I haven't heard of that happening in recent years, so I'm not sure if there have been developments in that area, or if it was just the pair I had.) As a fairly active kid, I also went through glasses. One memorable time was when we went to Expo '86 in Vancouver, BC, and they fell off and shattered. (Fortunately, I had another pair at the hotel, but I had to go the rest of the day without them until we got back to the hotel. After that we were much more careful to make sure the material they used for the lenses was shatter-proof. I also used straps and cords at times to hold them on my face.)

My parents only told my grandparents and some fellow missionaries about the diagnosis. Unbeknownst to us, my grandparents shared it at a national conference for our mission organization with delegates from around the US and around the world. In short order, people around the world were praying for me.

After second grade, we returned to the US in the summer of 1986. We did this every few years for a year at a time to visit our supporting churches and update them on our ministry, as well as to have time with family. There was a lot of travel involved. While in the US, we went to the foremost expert on retinitis pigmentosa west of the Mississippi. He examined my eyes and found no sign of it!

Retinitis pigmentosa has no cure. It leads to blindness. My vision was going starting from the peripheral vision, and had it progressed normally, I would eventually have had tunnel vision, and then it would be gone. I was forecast to be completely blind by the time I was a teenager, and I would definitely never be able to drive. My RP was completely healed! I love telling ophthalmologists that it healed, as that's something it doesn't do. The retinas don't just grow back, but mine did! I got my driver's license when I was 24 - delayed not because of my eyes, but due to slow reflexes as a child. I still wear glasses, but it is due to astigmatism (the corneas are slightly misshapen, which distorts the vision a bit), a condition I much prefer to blindness. They are mild, and one doctor a few years ago told me I could legally drive without them, though it's better to be wearing them. A more recent eye exam revealed 20/20 vision in one eye (I forget what the other eye was, but it wasn't quite as good). Following is my Optomap of both eyes side by side from a few years ago. (Optomap is a picture of the back of the eye, which presents an alternative to having to dilate the eyes, and you get to see a cool picture afterwards. I find it fascinating.) It shows no sign of RP. The doctor showed me Optomaps of patients with RP, and they showed holes in the retinas. None here.

This was the most dramatic miracle I have experienced, and it has made me super thankful that I can see. By all accounts I should be blind, but I can see! God's healing is mindblowing. It has reinforced the amazing power of prayer. It has also given me a passion for things related to vision. I am thankful for my glasses, and I have done research in recent years to figure out ways of raising awareness of the benefits of them. They don't heal anything, but they can be a big help with seeing things, reading, driving and more. With blue light blockers gaining popularity in the past few years, they can also help to keep (or minimize) harmful kinds of light from causing damage to the eyes. I definitely recommend getting regular checkups, as vision trouble can be subtle, and people often don't realize they need glasses and are surprised how much better they can see once they get them. I feel if everyone who needs glasses actually got and wore them, the world would be a safer place. They sometimes have a bit of a stigma, and I feel they're actually something to be proud of. I want to do what I can to remove the stigma.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Words @ Random

October 25, 2004, I stopped at Tully's for my morning latté on the way to work. They knew me pretty well, and I almost always ordered the same drink that we had decided to call a triple-berry latté. I don't remember if I had started asking for nonfat, no foam and no whip at that point, but they put one squirt of blackberry syrup, one squirt of raspberry, and one squirt of cherry. "Triple berry" was much less of a mouthful than having to say all that, and the baristas were familiar with it. In any case, as the machine was whirring that morning, the barista said, "Airplane." That was a bit unexpected! She was surprised to find out she had said that out loud, and explained that it occurred to her that the machine sounded like an airplane. I commented that it seemed she was saying words at random...then realized that sounded like a song title. So I told her maybe I would write a song and put it on my first album. She liked that. I wrote the song (well, poem), but I haven't recorded an album yet. Maybe someday?

[Side note: A few years later I would start counting calories and discover that daily morning lattés are not the best idea if you need to lose weight. Now I only have them occasionally, generally once or twice during pumpkin spice season. I still drink coffee, though, black.]

A project for a graphic design class
a few years after writing this poem.
I translated the poem into French
and made a poster based on the
visual poems in the Futuristic style.
"Cracked" is the title of the font.

Miniature Schnauzer
Oh the joy of saying words at random!
What a way to chase the blues away
Just saying words at random
People look at me like I'm strange
But what do I care?
I'm saying words at random!
It's so fun being easily entertained!
Which leaves me just one more thing to add:


As mentioned in the caption above, I translated the poem into French for a design project a few years later. Following is the French translation:

Mots au hasard

Schnauzer miniature
Quelle joie de dire des mots au hasard !
Quel moyen magnifique de chasser les idées noires !
On n'a qu'à dire des mots au hasard !
On me regarde comme si je suis fou
Mais ça m'est égal
Je dis des mots au hasard !
Noyer d'Amazonie
Que c'est amusant d'être facile à divertir !
Ce qui ne me laisse qu'une seule chose de plus à dire :
Xylophone !

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The Monkey

Antipolo, Philippines, c. 1984

The monkey was eating sticks. They didn't look very delicious to me, but hey, if that's what floats the monkey's boat, I say go for it! I'm sure it's a great source of fiber.* The monkey seemed to be enjoying them, in any case. As we watched from the nearby swing, I noticed there weren't a lot of sticks within its reach, and my heart went out to my fellow primate. I wanted to help out, to make sure it was well cared for. But there was an issue. A sign nearby warned us to stay away. I was in a bit of a quandary, as I was a bit wary due to the sign, but also didn't want to risk tossing the stick and potentially hitting the beautiful creature and hurting it.

Public domain picture from

Our mission organization was having a retreat, and while the adults were in meetings, we kids were on the playground. They had a bench swing with two benches facing each other, which is where we were seated. The monkey was a few feet away, tied up so it couldn't get far. The leash was attached to a pole at a diagonal between a tree and the ground, to allow the monkey more range of motion.

I continued to ponder how best to help out, and I finally decided it would be kinder to hand the stick to the monkey rather than risk hurting it.** I picked up my stick and carefully moved closer, gingerly extending my stick to the monkey, in what I hoped was a friendly manner.

Then it happened.

The monkey ignored the stick. My face was what really interested it. For a few moments I was paralyzed in shock as the wild beast clawed, scratched, mauled my face! 

I don't know how long my shock lasted - probably only a few seconds, though it seemed longer - but as soon as it wore off, I backed up and got away as quickly as I could! I ran across the playground, up the stairs, across the courtyard, and into the lobby of the resort, screaming for my parents. I am told it looked like I had been in a battle.

Thereafter, every time we returned to that resort, the mortified owners apologized yet again, and reminded me again that they had gotten rid of the monkey. I don't know where it went, but it wasn't worth having a pet if it would hurt their valued guests.

So if you ever go to that resort, enjoy their amazing mango slushes. The cashew tree out front is great. The stream out back is beautiful and offers some great opportunities for finding guppies and other small wildlife. They have an awesome pool, where our church did baptisms. They have a sweet playground. The owners are super friendly. But if you ever stop and wonder, "Why don't they have a monkey?" ...

It was me. I'm the reason they no longer have a monkey. It was an attempt at kindness that went very wrong.

Thankfully, I still like monkeys. But I have learned to have a healthy respect for wildlife. I also learned that it's important to heed warning signs. On the plus side, it makes icebreaker games fun.

* Note: As I was 6 at the time, I'm quite certain I was not thinking about the nutritional benefits of sticks.
** In retrospect, a small stick thrown from a few feet away probably wouldn't have hurt it. 

Monday, January 9, 2023


October 28, 1999, I was in college and had a shocking epiphany that I couldn't think of a single poem that used the word discombobulated. It had such poetic possibility! This could not stand! I hastened to fix that problem, and the following story of an abduction by Vikings (and other randomness) unfolded. I set the poem to a techno tune. (Note: I am proud of my Scandinavian heritage. That said, I was going more for rhymes than historical accuracy. Also of note, the first four stanzas have nothing to do with the rest of the poem, except that they rhyme.)

Ein Wikingerüberfall (A Viking Raid)
Ferdinand Leeke, 1901


On the road I skated
And I rollerbladed
A racket I created!

To the mob I stated
My speech right now is slated

I stated and restated
Jack Sprat is underweighted
His wife is overweighted

The two were unrelated
Until the day they were mated
Her hair he daily braided
And they were both elated

Until the Vikings raided
Their house they had invaded
Their ego was deflated
And those men they hated

Their home was desecrated
Their glory, it soon faded
They became outdated

Their language he translated
The verbs he conjugated
To Norway they were crated
They were unsedated

To a land they were freighted
On a great ship, gold-plated
Their happiness negated
The Vikings they berated

Their birthday cards belated
Their arrival long-awaited
Their fury unabated
The Vikings soon were jaded

Against their will they aided
And, boy, had they debated
Bibliography annotated
To them clearly dictated

Their sla-ve-ry was fated
In the ground they spaded
While the Vikings recreated

They left so much unstated
The snow was underrated
And their teeth they grated
Their eyes were soon dilated

Escaped! They soon vacated
Their home was reinstated
Architecture they updated
Gothic they predated

This song is overrated
People interrelated
This song is terminated!

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Five Years

This past Wednesday I posted about doing a word of the year rather than New Years resolutions. My words for 2023 are Beginnings and Sunrise. This was my word for 2018:

I posted that picture 5 years ago when my job, originally slated to last 3-4 weeks, changed from contract to permanent. The contract position began in April of 2017, and my first day of being an official employee of Wireless Advocates was January 8, 2018. It was an incredible experience, and there were tears of joy. One thing that meant a lot to me was when my manager informed me that it was a "no brainer" to convert me from contract to permanent. As a contractor, I set records in order processing, both personal and in our department. I continued that in my new permanent role.

The past five years have been amazing and challenging. I could not have asked for a more incredible, cohesive team, and my manager has led it masterfully. We are like family. I have grown professionally and as a person, and have shrunk in weight. (😀) I sometimes felt my manager believed in me more than I believed in myself, and she has never failed to be a massive encouragement any time I was second guessing myself (and other times). This job has taught me so much. We have been through a lot as a team. I found out I have ADHD, which was a big help in understanding and working with challenges that I've faced over the years. A coworker lost his mother to cancer. My manager has lost several relatives, and gained a grandson and a little sister. I have learned that our nation hasn't come anywhere near as far as I previously thought in ending racism, considering the horrifying discrimination and loss my manager and other coworkers have faced. I lost my dad shortly after my manager lost hers. My car was totaled in an accident. I love that I've been here long enough to be amazed how fast my manager's children are growing, and to cheer them on as well. I got to hang out with coworkers after work. The job has been challenging and incredibly rewarding. The tough times and the good times have brought us closer. One time, the TARDIS even landed on the roof of our building! (Well, technically, it was an Instagram filter, but close enough.) 😀

Working with managers and salespeople around the country, I have learned from more than just our immediate team. We supported them, and it was awesome talking to some of them when they visited our national headquarters. Over the past month, one former District Manager in particular has been an incredible encouragement and cheerleader to everyone in the company on LinkedIn, posting inspirational messages daily.

When COVID hit, we transitioned to working from home, and the transition was surprisingly smooth. Our management and team have met virtually on a regular basis, and we have remained as cohesive as ever. We have even to been able to meet in person on occasion. As difficult as COVID has been, I have been thankful to be working from home now, as my parents have been needing more assistance, and I've been more available for them, while still being able to do my job and even work overtime.

The news last month that our company is no more was difficult for everyone. It was tough enough for us at national headquarters, and we got 2 months notice. I feel for my colleagues around the country who had no warning, and kiosks closed suddenly. That has happened to me once before, and it was not fun. However, on the flip side, it has been exciting watching on LinkedIn and other social media as managers and associates around the country have rallied around each other, encouraging each other, supporting each other. I'm so glad to see when colleagues have posted that they are starting new jobs.

With just under a month to go for those of us at national headquarters, our job searches are continuing apace. I'm excited to see where everyone will end up.

I have been with Wireless Advocates officially for five years now (about 5¾ if you count my time as a contractor). I'm thankful that I was able to make it to 5 years, and I wouldn't trade this time for anything. I'm looking forward to the next phase.

Following are some of the most amazing people I've ever had the honor of working with:

My amazing manager with her
well-deserved Employee of the Year
Award in 2018

Possibly one of my favorite pictures
that I've ever taken!

Saturday, January 7, 2023

The Cactus

I wrote the following poem April 8, 2002 following a difficult event. (Interestingly, I don't even recall what event that was, but my younger self tells me it was seriously trying.) Working through the pain, I realized that holding onto it was just about as absurd as trying to hug a cactus. It would only hurt me further. I also thought of 1 Peter 5:6-7. I've often seen both these verses quoted in different contexts, but rarely together: "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."

I also blogged about 1 Peter 5:7 a few years ago, here. It's one of my favorite verses. The lesson was further reinforced later that year, as I blogged here.

What cactus are you trying to hug? Let it go!

Photo by Cara Tracy
Used with permission

I clung to a cactus
Embraced it in my arms
And the pain ripped through my aching body!

The spines pricked my skin
The pain grew intense;
But the worse the pain, the tighter I clung!

I cried out in agony
I complained and bemoaned the pain
As I fought against the cactus
And I clung
Still tighter

Until God said,
"My child,
Give Me the cactus.
Let go of the cactus
And let Me take your pain."

And I



And let God take the cactus
He took away the pain
He healed my biting wounds
And in their place, He gave me peace
And joy
My trust in Him grew stronger
All I had to do was let go of my pride
Let go of my pain
And rest in the arms of my loving heavenly Father.

Friday, January 6, 2023

The First Noel

January 6 has been a fairly eventful day throughout history. In his novel Notre-Dame de Paris (translated into English as The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Victor Hugo tells of the Feast of Fools on that day, when the people of Paris have a competition to see who can wear the ugliest mask. Quasimodo wins without even trying, and is crowned the Pope of Fools. In 1540, Henry VIII married Anne of Cleves (a marriage that would end in divorce). In 1759, George Washington married his wife Martha. In 1994, figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was attacked. It is the birthday of Joan of Arc (1412-1431), John DeLorean (1925-2005, whose car company would have an important part in Back to the Future), EL Doctorow (1931-2015, whose book Ragtime would inspire a movie and a musical), Justin Welby (born 1956, current Archbishop of Canterbury), Eddie Redmayne (born 1982, British actor who played Marius Pontmercy in Les Misérables, Newt Scamander in the Fantastic Beasts movies, and Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, among others), and many others. Just two years ago, our former president provoked a terrorist attack on our Capitol in an effort to get the will of the people overturned. Several cultures celebrate Christmas Eve. 

In the Christian calendar, January 6 is Epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day. It closes out the Christmas season. Depending on the tradition, it's either the day or the day after the author of The Twelve Days of Christmas received twelve drummers drumming and a whole host of other gifts from their true love. It commemorates the Wise Men (a.k.a. We Three Kings) visiting Jesus and bringing their gifts. When considering what song to write about today, my first thought was "We Three Kings," but I already did that one (see the link earlier in this paragraph). "The First Noel" also mentions the magi.

The Magi Journeying
James Tissot, c. 1890
Brooklyn Museum

One thing that strikes me about the Christmas story is how God chose the most unlikely of people to receive the announcement of the birth of the Messiah. Shepherds were the lowest of the low in their culture. They were often outcasts. The Magi were foreigners, and they were likely astrologers. Aside from the magi who came from the east to visit Jesus, the only other mention of that word in the New Testament is in Acts 8, when Peter and John encountered Simon the Sorcerer. The word translated "sorcerer" is the same word, a magus (the singular of magi). They were star gazers and advisers to kings, often followers of Zoroastrianism. It just said the magi came from the east, but doesn't specify where. Traditionally, they came from Arabia, Persia and India, respectively. Wikipedia has some interesting details on what scholars believe about their possible origins and further details. The number of magi is unknown, traditionally told as three because they brought three gifts.

The first two verses of "The First Noel" concern the shepherds. The angel announced the awesome news, and the star led them to the stable. Verses 3-5 tell about the wise men, or magi. They followed the star to search for the new King. It led them northwest, until it stopped over Bethlehem. They entered the house and presented their gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense. (My "We Three Kings" post details the significance of those gifts.) Verse 6 is our response. We "sing praises to our heavenly Lord, that hath made heaven and earth of nought, and with His blood mankind hath bought." There have also been other verses over the years, but that's the version we currently sing.

When did the magi visit? The past few years I have thought it was two years later. When they arrived, the Bible says they visited the house, not the stable. Herod ordered children two years and younger killed after the magi visited, which is when Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt. However, my friend Mikel Del Rosario (also known as The Apologetics Guy) recently pointed out that the stable was likely in Joseph's ancestral home. It could have been as early as 40 days after the birth. People generally think of it being 2 years later because of Herod's order, but he could have just been covering his bases. We don't know precisely when they visited.

The song originated in Cornwall, England, during the 13th or 14th Centuries. It may have originated as a miracle play, ancient plays portraying biblical stories and accompanied by song. The Cornish gathered in the streets to sing it. More details on that here.