As the year 1968 came to a close, it was with deep sadness and grief. It had been a difficult year for Americans: the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.; the escalation of the Vietnam War; and civil unrest across college and university campuses. The gift on Christmas Eve that year was unlike any other.
If you were alive on Christmas Eve, 1968, you may have heard the Apollo 8 astronauts’ (Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders) live broadcast from lunar orbit. We viewed pictures of Earth and the moon as seen from lunar orbit and Jim Lovell remarked, “The vast loneliness is awe-inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth.” And then the crew took turns reading Genesis 1.
As we attended Christmas Eve worship to celebrate the arrival of the Prince of Peace, many of us felt hope and awe and peace.
Dr. Edgar Mitchell became the sixth human to walk on the moon’s surface as part of the 1971 Apollo 14 mission. This is what he reported back,
“Suddenly, from behind the rim of the moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than moment to fully realize this is Earth…home.” (http://friendsofsilence.net/quote/2009/03/suddenly-behind-rim-moon)
When God created the heavens and the earth, God had a plan. It was a plan that required creativity, imagination and love. Because, this was a special project. God’s breath hovered over the waters, like God’s Spirit overshadowed Mary, the soon-to-be mother of Jesus. Creation occurred in steps, not at one time. Not even in one day.
First, the habitat was created: light and dark; day and night. Then the sky to separate waters above from the waters below. And finally, land and plants. God stood back and said, “Yes! That’s good! Now we’re ready.”
Light appeared in the form of stars and sun and moon. Not static light, though. Light that would assist us in knowing seasons and days and years. Then the birds and creatures from the sea. And finally, God’s ultimate triumph: animals and humans. “Yes! That’s good! Now we’re ready.”
It must have been an amazing sight. God’s breath hovering over the waters; the crashing noise of water separated from water; the booming movement of water to expose land; the silence of night; the eruption of the sun. Fish swam through the beautiful blue waters or thrashed their way up the rapids to spawn. Birds flew overhead looking for nesting material; larger birds dive-bombing for food.
Did God laugh with delight? You bet ya! God laughed and delighted and spent time enjoying each day of creation. Without God there was no life.
Did God create a rigid and mechanical world? Not at all. God had a plan based on love that is flexible. This creation would be sustainable and strong and delicate and fragile all at the same time.
God spent three days of eternity designing and plotting and organizing a place for stars and sun and moon and animals and plants of every kind. God’s ultimate creative activity, though, was you and I.
The Psalmist writes in the 8th Psalm, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” (Ps 8:3-4 NRSV)
Edgar Mitchell said it just as eloquently as he stood on the moon watching the Earth rise: “It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth…home.”
This is creation. The beginning of us. The beginning of covenant with God. In that covenant we were told to be fruitful and multiply and to take care of God’s lesser creatures. We were given dominion, not domination.
And here’s where the debate begins. We have numerous theories: that creation happened in exactly six days; that the earth isn’t billions of years old but only 5,000 to 6,000 years old; that Jesus’ return is imminent therefore we don’t have to worry about how we care for the earth; that we are evolved from chimpanzees; that the earth was formed from the Big Bang Theory; that someone had to be there to light the match.
I know what I believe. And I know that others disagree with me. At the same time, I wonder if we might agree on this: that God created an amazing world with amazing creatures that we’re still discovering today. That God formed all of this in order to be in relationship with us, who keep getting it wrong even as we continue to receive God’s cup of grace. That God isn’t done, yet.
God isn’t finished with the creative process. God isn’t finished with us. God is still at work surprising us with revelations of beauty and laughter and new things available to us every day.
So, whether the world ends today or thousands of years hence, don’t be shy about loving and caring for this planet in any way you can. Don’t be afraid to listen to others before making an informed decision.
Most of all, embrace this God who is still active in the world. And look at those pictures of earth from space and wonder in awe about this “sparkling blue and white jewel…” The one we call home.
All glory and honor be to God.