This year saw the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo moon landing by NASA.
On July 16 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida on a journey to the Moon and into history. Four days later, while Collins orbited the Moon in the command module, Armstrong and Aldrin landed Apollo 11’s lunar module, Eagle, on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquillity, becoming the first humans to set foot on the lunar surface.
Armstrong’s words as he stepped down on to the lunar surface are now some of the most famous in history: “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
But it’s another quote that grabbed my attention this year. William Anders was on board Apollo 8 when, on Christmas Eve 1968, it orbited the moon. Its mission was political and scientific: collect photos of the moon’s surface to enable a future landing. Apollo 8 orbited the moon three times before the earth came into view out of one of its windows. At first no one noticed it. It wasn’t part of their mission. But when Anders caught sight of the lush blue orb, the mission took a momentary back seat.
Scrambling for a roll of colour film, Anders loaded it into his camera and snapped his impromptu photo of the earth rising out of the stark blackness above the barren surface of the moon. The picture, known as Earthrise, has become one of the most iconic of the 20th century.
In 1968 the world was bitterly divided. The Cold War and the Vietnam War raged; Wilson and Heath were slugging it out in the British parliament; the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King shocked the world and Enoch Powell made his now infamous ‘rivers of blood’ speech on immigration before being forced to resign.
Against this backdrop of division and animosity, Anders was given a gift. He was given a new perspective on humanity.
This fragile blue dot hanging in the blackness reminds us that our divisions are merely a matter of perspective. We are all linked together on this planet we all must share; we are all stewards of this fragile earth. Everyone who has ever lived, ever loved, did so on this rock we call home. Looking after it is more important than our individual differences – now more than ever.
At Bessels Green Baptist Church over Christmas and into 2020, we are going to be thinking about this beautiful gift God has given us; planet Earth, our home.
Christmas is an announcement that this world matters, that you and I matter; that the God who created all and loves all is for us not against us. Celebrating the birth of Jesus is a reminder that God is always with us, in all places and through all things. What is so often missing is the right perspective. In a world that feels as divided as at any time in history, we need a ‘higher’ perspective. We can get so busy with life, and even with ‘Christmas’, that we seldom take the time to pause and reflect on the gift of Jesus born among us.
Reflecting on his photo ‘Earthrise’ from the higher perspective of space Anders said, “We set out to explore the moon and instead discovered the Earth”.
We need a change in perspective, now more than ever; and Christmas is an opportunity to do just that. To see with new eyes, to discover a new truth, or maybe re-discover an old perspective. That God, Immanuel, is with us and we must care for this planet we call home, as it’s the only one we’ve got.
Grace and peace,
Rev Charlie Ingram
Charlie is the senior minister at Bessels Green Baptist Church, services are at 10am and 4.30pm on Sundays at BGBC and 10am at the Pavilion in Dunton Green. For more information about Bessels Green Baptist Church and the various activities you could be involved in during the week please visit bgbc.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You are warmly invited to join us for one of our Christmas services.
15th December 10am
22nd December 6.30pm
Carols by Candlelight
followed by refreshments
24th December 4pm
Children’s Carol Service
followed by refreshments
25th December 10am – 11am
Christmas Day Celebration
Children are invited to bring a Christmas present
29th December 10am
All Age Worship
Please note, our last 4.30pm afternoon service will be a Christmas party on the 15th of December.
Afternoon Services will resume on the 5th of January.