I don’t remember what I was doing on Christmas Eve 1968. I was 21 years old, and driving a brand new Firebird 400 around Omaha. I was still on active duty with the Navy and was stationed at 30th and Laurel at the Navy Reserve Training Center. Whatever I did that night appears to be lost from my memory. But that night goes on as a very significant time for the United States because on December 24, 1968, the spacecraft Apollo VIII, carrying James A. Lovell, William Anders and Frank Borman became the first manned vehicle to circle the moon. The orbited the moon 10 times before firing the boosters to bring them home. According to one historian, it was “During their ninth orbit, the astronauts sent photographs back to earth, describing their awe at the bleakness of the moon and the beauty of the earth. (Borman’s photograph of a half earth hanging above the moon’s horizon is the most famous shot ever taken from space; the postal service printed it on a stamp.) All three astronauts commented on the colorlessness of the moon.”

In Borman’s own autobiography, he wrote, “There was one more impression we wanted to transmit: our feeling of closeness to the Creator of all things. This was Christmas Eve, December 24, 1968, and I handed Jim and Bill their lines from the Holy Scriptures.” The historian continues his commentary by saying, “About six weeks before launch, a NASA official had called Borman. Noting that the crew would be circling the earth on Christmas Eve, he said, “We figure more people will be listening to your voice than that of any man in history. So we want you to say something appropriate.” After conferring with several of his friends, Borman chose the passage and Bill Anders read from the Book of Genesis. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light:’ and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”

The story goes on to say, “Jim Lovell took the next four verses. ‘And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.’ And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.’ Frank Borman finished with, ‘And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear’: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters he called Seas: and God saw that it was good.’” Borman said that in space he felt a “closeness” to the creator of all things! We need not orbit the moon to experience that closeness. God came from heaven to us in the person of His son, Jesus Christ. He is our Immanuel! Closeness with God is achieved not by man’s efforts to reach Him, but by His work in reaching us in our sin! “Behold unto you a child is born. Unto you a son is given.” (Isaiah 9:6).