Sermon Text - Astronaut
Anyone else have a childhood dream of being an astronaut? Boy, I did.
The Mercury Seven astronauts were making the first American space flights when I was a little kid. I knew all their names. And I wanted to be an astronaut. You know what that word means? Literally, an astronaut is a "star voyager." Even now, if Captain Kirk invited me to serve on the starship Enterprise, I'd take the job in a heartbeat...forget about being a priest.
But it turns out that I AM an astronaut, and so are you. We live on a spaceship, moving through the stars. Some scientists talk about "Spaceship Earth." We are all space travelers.
And the stars speak to us. They always have. From the first, human beings looked up at the night sky and were awestruck by the mystery and beauty of the stars.
Listen to these ancient words from Psalm 19:
The heavens declare the glory of God
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
One day tells its tale to another,
and one night imparts knowledge to another.
Although they have no words or language,
and their voices are not heard,
their sound has gone out into all lands,
and their message to the ends of the world.
The stars speak to us. It's why a star symbolizes the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. I'm so proud of my wife and grateful to her for making our beautiful banners. She made these quilted banners with stars for this season and this reason.
The stars speak to us.
Now, in our part of the world, in the northern hemisphere, we celebrate the coming of the Christ Child in the darkest time of the year. Jesus was not born at Christmas. This may sound strange, but December 25 is not his actual birthday. First-century peasants in Palestine did not get birth certificates. We don't really know the date of his birth. If the shepherds were out with their flocks, the birth was probably in the early spring.
But we celebrate his birth near the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, when the darkness is the deepest. The Church knows we need to celebrate light in the darkness. So right near the time of the longest night, we celebrate the coming of the greatest Light. He is the Light coming into a dark world. And the star of Advent and Christmas and Epiphany shines in beauty and mystery. We are called to follow the light.
In Mark's Gospel text for today, Jesus talks about the end of all things. He says that even the stars will stop shining some day. Scientists tell us the same thing in different language. This universe is not permanent. Our own lives on this earth are not permanent, either.
What we are given is now. What we are given is life right here. What we are given is light, the light of a star.
Scientists tell us that we are actually made of star-stuff. The elements of which our bodies are formed were forged in the stars. You and I are made of stardust. We are star people, as well as star voyagers.
The stars speak to us, if we have open eyes and open hearts. The stars speak to us of the beauty of creation, of light in the darkness, and of ultimate mystery.
Think of that when you look at the stars on our banners. And remember that once in a while, it's your Christian duty to go outside and stand under a clear night sky and look up. Look at the stars.
On the last mission to the Moon in 1972, the astronauts of Apollo 17 took a picture of the Earth, the whole Earth. It looked like a Christmas tree ornament hanging in the blackness of space.
When I see pictures of our planet Earth from space, I see them as religious icons, holy pictures. The Earth is so beautiful, so delicate, and so small. It is our home, and it is our spaceship. It reminds me of that old fisherman's prayer: "Dear God, be good to me -- the sea is so big, and my boat is so small."
Our spaceship Earth is just a tiny speck in a vast universe of stars and galaxies. But a great poet named Robinson Jeffers wrote this: "It's only a little planet, but how beautiful it is."
Amen to that.
Look at the stars, and listen to what they tell you.
And follow the light.
You'll always find it shining on your path.
After all, you're an astronaut, and I am, too.
By God's creation, by God's grace, by God's gift, you and I are star voyagers.