How improbable miracles seem, even right in our midst, even changing our destiny, even altering our perspective, begging us take account. Still, we hurry on. We have chores to do, worries to attend, distractions to indulge, things to put first. Then comes Christmas.
Once again, Luke’s voice echoes, the angel and heavenly host, proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace among men.” How unlikely those words seem, as if spoken from space, blithely bidding us be our best, not our worst, urging faith in goodness, hope, and Him.
For a moment, the world’s worries, social media, truculence, trivia, and tawdry nature disappear. We are again alone, under that lone star, looking back once more in awe and wonder.
Fifty-two years ago, from a place in space no man had been, words crackled back to Earth. On Christmas Eve 1968, Apollo 8’s crew – Jim Lovell, later to command Apollo 13, Frank Borman, and Bill Anders, spoke to the largest audience in human history, quarter of the world.
They had just witnessed an “Earthrise,” our planet emerging from behind the moon. Everything they knew fit under one thumb. The moment was surreal, as improbable as any other miracle. Said NASA that Christmas Eve, “Do something appropriate.” So, they did.
They read from the Bible. Mankind had never been so far away, so much of the heavens, so big and so small. They had escaped Earth’s pull, and suddenly the world was just a dot.
Bill Anders spoke first. “For all the people on Earth,” he said, “the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you.” With that, he turned to Genesis.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said: Let there be light, and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good, and God divided the light from the darkness.”
As Anders read, the crew came into the light and watched a green-blue ball appear against the vast blackness of space, subject of the words they spoke. Anders’ words trailed off.
Jim Lovell, an eagle scout who once pledged, “On my honor, I will do my best to God and my country,” picked up the thread. “And God called the light Day, and darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said: Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament and divided the waters ….” As Lovell read, the “heavens” surrounded him.
Last, Borman. “And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear, and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called the Seas, and God saw that it was good.”
Borman added: “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you – all of you on the good Earth.”
These many years later, Apollo 8’s Genesis reading may seem distant, endearing but quaint, a miracle within a miracle when we still believed in miracles, not now relevant.
Only that is the point: Miracles are always relevant, always worth pause – especially at Christmas. We move so fast, dodge and dash, forget things as profound as an Earthrise to human eyes, star-filled skies, words read from deep space – about God’s love for Man.
So, if you get a chance, listen again to those epic words read – half a century ago, from beyond the moon. Think about the power of faith to make the impossible possible. Remember the angel’s words: “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace among men.” https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=apollo+8+christmas+audio&docid=608032769605371139&mid=66BB507FDFE6E0FB222566BB507FDFE6E0FB2225&view=detail&FORM=VIRE