Christmas Eve 1968, fifty years this Christmas millions around the world were watching and listening as Apollo 8 astronauts – Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders became the first space travellers to orbit the moon. 1968 had been one of the most turbulent years for the USA whichhad suffered the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King and Senator Robert Kennedy. Breaking through the darkness came words of hope as in turn the astronauts read from the book of Geneses ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ Bringing to a nation and a world words of assurance and hope. God said ‘let there be light and there was light’
We often overlook that behind that first Christmas was the evil of King Herod whose jealousy and paranoia led to the murder of all the baby boys born in Bethlehem. Evil was there seeking to destroy and hinder the coming of God’s kingdom of love and peace. This Christmas that evil is still to be seen in the tortured faces of those caught up in the devastation of the Yemen and other parts of the world where cruel dictatorships wreak havoc and despair for so many. Herod’s legacy remains – but his end was near and his intentions were never to be fulfilled – God was in control.
That first Christmas angels sang of peace and goodwill to all humanity through the Saviour born in Bethlehem. Jesus grew to the maturity of manhood and spoke of loving our neighbour with no boundaries of culture, religion or race. Christmas leads on to Easter and to the certainty of the judgement that will come upon all who do evil and that world peace is no lost cause when we take seriously the ways ordained by God that first Christmas. Herod’s way always leads to devastation, destruction and untold suffering. The way of the shepherds and wise men bring us to the manger where divine light diffused the darkness of evil and sin. This timeless message is eternal and yet ever new. The way to Bethlehem is there for us all to follow, it is the way of hope and never the way of hatred and fear. May peace come to all those regions of the world where the ways of Herod remain and may the way to Bethlehem bring us all to the place where love was born. ‘O tidings of comfort and joy!’ A happy and peaceful Christmas to you and yours!