And God said,
“Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and
let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years,and
let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.”
(Genesis 1. 14 – 15)
In the midst of the sacred season of Advent, 50 years ago, our eyes were turned heavenward as the Apollo 8 mission was nearing takeoff for the moon during the last week of Advent. Its mission was to circle the moon “in the vault of the sky” and come back. The astronauts aboard Apollo 8 began their safe journey home after the end of the 10th lunar orbit, which happened right after Advent ended on Christmas Day.
On Christmas Eve that year, the Apollo 8 astronauts saw the “lesser light,” which was first generated divinely during creation as described in the scriptures, closer than any other humans. While orbiting, they saw the moon, which God set in the sky to govern the night, give light on the earth from a vantage point never seen by any others. The scriptures proclaim that
“God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day
and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.
God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth,
to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness.”
(Genesis 16 – 18a)
Thus, they saw and orbited an Advent moon that was created by God to give light on the earth during a sacred day, Christmas Eve.
Sacred Season of Advent
During Advent, Christians are encouraged to dive deeply into this sacred season for time of quiet reflection and discernment, so that we may see the incarnational “Light of the World” closer than ever from new vantage points as a result of closely exploring the words of the incarnate Christ.
“I am the light of the World.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”
As the “light of the world,” he told us to “love one another as I have loved you (John 15.12),” “love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12.31),” and “let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3.18).”
The incarnate Christ also said
“You are the light of the world.
. . . let your light shine before (others), that they may see your good deeds
and praise your Father in heaven.”
(Matthew 5. 14a and 16)
Let the sacred season of Advent be a tending time during which deeper longings for good deeds, justice, healing, and peace are born and nurtured as we prepare to commemorate the birth of the incarnate Christ on Christmas Day.
May our nights also be part of our birthing time during which we long to further carry out the teachings of the incarnate Christ. The scriptures proclaim that God “reveals the deep things of darkness and brings utter darkness into the light. (Job 12.22)” and that God reveals “deep and hidden things;” “knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells” with God. (Daniel 2.22).
The Apollo 8 astronauts saw the near side of the moon, which is the part of the Advent Moon that we will always see when we look up at the moon. Gravitational forces have slowed the moon’s rotation so that the one same side always faces the earth.
The Apollo 8 astronauts, however, also saw the far side of the moon during lunar orbit. Never before was the far side of the moon, known as the dark side of the moon, seen by human eyes.
May the nights of our tending time during Advent be filled with our longings to carry out the teachings of the incarnate Christ by continuing to focus on the near side of such wisdom. However, may we yearn for God to reveal “deep and hidden things” and explore the far side of these teachings during the sacred time of the Advent moon.
As did the Psalmist, may we cry out
“Light dawns in the darkness for the upright,
for the one who is gracious, compassionate, and righteous.”
The Psalmist also declared
“Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.”
Also, may we believe, as did the Psalmist, that God
“will bring forth your righteousness like the dawn, your justice like the noonday sun.”
The Advent moon has no light of its own. The moon is merely a reflection of the sun’s light and created “in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.”
May we have the same interaction during and after the season of Advent. We have no light of our own. The Christian life is a reflection of the Son’s light, the incarnate Christ.
That is why the “Light of the World” told his followers that “You are the light of the world” and “let your light shine before (others), that they may see your good deeds,” so that they may praise God who said at the time of creation
“Let there be lights . . .,
and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years”
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ (James 1.1),” also declared in his first chapter that
Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows.
He chose to give us birth through the word of truth,
that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.
(James 1. 17 – 18)
May this season of Advent mark a sacred time when we gave birth to a fuller understanding that like the Advent moon we have no light of our own. The Son shines upon us and we are to reflect the Light of the World on the earth “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2.10).”