On Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1968, the crew of Apollo 8 entered lunar orbit and began circling the moon – the first time in history for humans to visit another world.
That evening the crew’s astronauts Bill Anders, Jim Lovell and Frank Borman transmitted a live television broadcast including spectacular pictures of the moon just 60 miles below them, and of the Earth – a quarter of a million miles away!
In a most fitting conclusion to the broadcast, the astronauts shared a biblical reading of the first 10 verses of the creation account in the book of Genesis.
Anders started by inspiringly saying “We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send you: ‘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.’”
Immediately after reading from Genesis, Borman said, “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.”
But in 1968, the good Earth, and countless good people on it, were suffering from various evils. The bloody Vietnam War, the brutal Soviet crushing of the Prague uprising, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and race riots throughout the U.S. were among the critical ills sickening our good Earth.
Today, 55 years later, as we approach Christmas, the sad realities of 1968 are still with us – although in different forms.
Savage wars between Russia and Ukraine/NATO, and between Israel and Hamas – with continuous bombs being dropped upon Gazans – as well as at least 54 other internal armed conflicts have resulted in countless deaths – most sadly thousands upon thousands of children, not statistics, but real flesh and blood little boys and girls killed by heartless adults obsessed with the mass murder of war (see: https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/).
Mass shootings, death penalty executions, 73 million abortions of unborn babies annually, death dealing effects of climate change, and over 700 million hungry people – 50 million of whom now facing starvation, are horrendous examples of the pandemic of violence worldwide.
Tragically, it appears we haven’t learned a thing.
One beautiful way to help change things for the better is by making a heartfelt Christmas gift to our desperate war-torn, poor and hungry brothers and sisters in the Holy Land (see: https://www.churchinneed.org/help-for-christians-caught-in-holy-land-crisis/).
But don’t stop there. Jesus is asking to be reborn in you to continue doing his work in our violent world crying out for justice, peace, and love.
Humanity’s first manned step toward the heavenly bodies in 1968 gave all of us living on the good Earth an astronomical boost. And the famous “Earthrise,” photographically captured by Anders, offered humanity a fresh heavenly perspective of how we might better view our earthly home.
Give yourself a wonderful Christmas gift. Click onto the following NASA link and meditate on the awesome “Earthrise” photo. And with an open mind and heart prayerfully listen to Apollo 8’s Christmas Eve 1968 message (see: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/history/features/apollo_8.html).
Anders said that despite all the training and preparation for an exploration of the moon, the astronauts ended up discovering the Earth. Oh, that we too might discover the goodness of planet Earth and the goodness of every person on it!
On Christmas Day, with a view of the distant Earth from above the moon, Apollo 8 astronaut Frank Borman offered this deeply inspiring prayer. Let’s pray it together: “Give us, O God, the vision which can see thy love in the world in spite of human failure. Give us the faith to trust the goodness in spite of our ignorance and weakness. Give us the knowledge that we may continue to pray with understanding hearts, and show us what each one of us can do to set forth the coming of the day of universal peace. Amen.”