I can remember it as if it were yesterday. It was Christmas Eve, 1968 and I was an eleven year old boy – yes, I am 51 – and I was captivated by the Apollo 8 team, whose dangerous and courageous mission was to orbit the moon in what was really a tin can in space. I can remember the daily reports about the mission, which usually coincided around dinner time in Scotland.
That evening, there was a special report late at night because the astronauts were making a special broadcast. Although I didn’t get to see it until the next day, it was in all the news. The Apollo 8 astronauts had made Christmas that year very special because each of them read from the Bible.
William Anders began the broadcast with a special introduction:
“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 to you.
He then started to read from the first chapter of the Book of Genesis: In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth….
Jim Lovell took over and read more verse from the first chapter, and then Frank Borman quoted some more of Genesis and finished the broadcast with this message:
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.”
It was an astonishing moment in history and it had a profound affect on me. It made me link God with the creation of the universe and I have never forgotten the wonder of it all.
Days later, Madelyn Murray O’Hair, an atheist, responded by suing the United States government, alleging violations of the First Amendment. The suit was dismissed by the Supreme Court due to lack of jurisdiction, after all, how could the Supreme Justices enforce anything that took place off the planet?
Less than a year later, on the historic Apollo 11 mission, Buzz Aldrin took communion on the lunar surface shortly after landing. He kept his actions secret for many years, but it was also an amazing event. It was the first time that a Christian had ever taken communion on the surface of another world.
Every Christmas, the wonder of what God did way back 2000 years ago, always hits me on Christmas Eve. In all of the billions of galaxies that this universe contains, why did He choose this one? Amongst the zillions of stars, why did He choose ours? And amongst the planets, why did He choose ours upon which to bestow life?
And then, amongst all of the great empires, kingdom, and nations on earth, why did God choose one of its smallest ones, Judea, to bring His Son into the world. And out of all of the cities and towns of that small kingdom, why was little insignificant Bethlehem chosen as the birthplace of the Messiah? And why not in the house of a rich, powerful, and successful person? Why does God allow His Son to be born and laid to rest in the feeding trough of a stable?
Because that’s how God, great and almighty, omnipotent and eternal, works.
God does what He wills, in ways and for reasons that remain a mystery to us. He makes promises and keeps them, so that we will benefit from His goodness, mercy, and grace.
He promises never again to destroy the world, even though the wickedness of humanity deserves it.
He promises to heal us, revive us, and restore us to His favor, even although we have deeply offended Him.
He promises to forgive us of our sins, our past mistakes, and deepest regrets, and make our contaminated souls clean before His eyes.
He promises to keep us when we listen to His Son, and never lose us.
He promises to bring His Son, Jesus, back into our world, so that we may seek His Coming and know that we are never alone.
And His promises begin with God’s choice to bring His Holy Son into the world, in a stable, in a tiny town, in a small kingdom, on a tiny planet orbiting a weak yellow sun, on the edge of the Milky Way, amongst gazillions of galaxies, in this almighty universe, which is contained and sustained by God’s thoughts alone.
Let us pray:
Lord God, You have called all of us to be here because You want us to know that we are never alone in the universe. You want us to experience the freedom that faith brings when we give our hearts and lives to Jesus. Liberate us from the past; rejoice with us at this present time, and prepare us for that wonderful day when Christ shall return to this planet, to claim and keep us for His own. Both now and forever. Amen.