Have you seen the Milky Way recently?
If you have, you can count yourself among the fortunate.
Astronomers say that light pollution from artificial lights is strong enough in many places to blot out the stars. They’ve calculated that over a third of humanity, and almost 80 percent of North Americans, can no longer see the Milky Way. Indeed, here in Toronto we’re lucky if we can even see the Big Dipper.
Few of us seem to recognize how sad this really is.
Vision scientist Sonke Johnsen does. He wrote:
“The thought of light traveling billions of years from distant galaxies only to be washed out in the last billionth of a second by the glow from the nearest strip mall depresses me no end.”
We seem to devalue the incredible gift of the night skies. We don’t pay it much mind when it’s there. And if we can’t see it any longer, the loss is of little importance to us.
Why is it that losing our connection to the wonder of our galaxy doesn’t seem to bother us? Is it our self-sufficiency? Are we so caught up with our shiny, man-made baubles that we’re blind to our need for something real?
I think this detachment from the cosmos speaks to a spiritual apathy, too.
How is it that we’re indifferent to the awesome gift of the Son of God?
What’s your favourite Christmas carol?
“Jingle Bells” seems to be at the top of many lists of the top Yuletide songs. It’s catchy, kids love it, and it puts people in a cheery mood.
Or perhaps you’re more partial to “Silent Night”? I don’t blame you—it’s a beautiful classic.
The honour of the best-selling Christmas single would have to go to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” And with good reason—how can you not love this song?
(I’m hoping that your favourite Christmas number isn’t “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.” If it is, I’m not sure we can be friends.)
As for me, my favourite carol is “Hark The Herald Angels Sing,” with lyrics by Charles Wesley and a rousing melody by Felix Mendelssohn.
This hymn is not only enjoyable to sing, it’s also richly loaded with Biblical truths. It starts out this way:
“Hark! The herald angels sing:
‘Glory to the new-born king
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled.’ “
The angels are celebrating the inauguration of a new Kingdom featuring world-wide peace and the reconciliation of humanity to its creator.
But wait a minute: aren’t the angels jumping the gun in this account?
God and sinners wouldn’t be reconciled until decades later in Jesus’ life, at the Cross.
And since Jesus was born the world hasn’t had a year without war somewhere or other. Where is the peace the carol describes?
Aren’t the angels being a bit premature in celebrating?
Not at all.