If you had been in Chicago on December 4th or 5th, you could have joined me (and over 10,000 other Chicagoans) for the Moody Bible Institute’s Candlelight Carols Christmas program, one of our biggest events of the year. In the setting of the majestic Moody Church, you would have seen and heard our three college choirs, the symphonic band, a few other musical ensembles, a multimedia display, and our drama team—all performing so beautifully for the glory of God.
For fifteen years or so, I’ve had the privilege of being involved in the production. And every year—though it can be hectic and hard—Candlelight Carols ushers in the Christmas season for me in a powerful way.
Back in 1999, when I was still new to my professorial position, a colleague asked me to help her direct the drama. And though I was intimidated by the high profile nature of the production, I agreed. The following year I was asked to write the script as well. I guess I rose to the occasion because for many years following, I did both—the writing and the directing.
Finally, five years ago my talented friend, Lindsey Branson, joined the Carols team and took over the directing reigns. And since then we’ve collaborated on each dramatic script.
For Lindsey and me, Candlelight Carols planning starts in May. We meet in a Starbucks with our laptops open, and we brainstorm…because here’s the thing: though every Carols is, of course, about Jesus’ journey to the manger, too many of us get numb to the nativity. It gets lost beneath the tinsel and the traditions and the turkey dinner. For this reason, every year the Carols team and I want to approach Jesus’ birth in a new way. Every year we want our audience to be struck afresh by the miracle of His coming. Every year I want to remind Chicago just how much they need Him.
This year’s drama idea was sparked when Lindsey and I Googled historic events that happened at Christmas. And we discovered—well, I’m sure I learned about this in school at some point but I had no recollection—that on Christmas Eve 1968 the Apollo 8 astronauts read Genesis chapter 1 during their telecast from the far side of the moon.
I dare you to not be awed by THIS!!
You can only fully appreciate the importance of this event when you understand the context, when you understand how much our country needed that expression of hope.
First, there was the Space Race with the USSR and the fact that the Soviet Sputnik had beaten the United States to space.
Second, there were the horrific events of 1968. Some call it the worst year of the last century with the Tet Offensive and the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the resulting riots in Baltimore, Chicago, and Washington D.C. It was a time of racial tension and international conflict and fear.
A time not unlike our own.
So on Christmas Eve 1968 Jim Lovell, Frank Borman, and Bill Anders gave us our first glimpse of our globe from the orbit of the moon. And in reading the creation narrative from that astonishing vantage point, they reminded us just how small we are. And how great is He.
In 1968 the United States needed the Apollo 8. But far more than that, we needed to be reminded of our Creator God.
And His Son, our Savior, who came to redeem.
In 2015 we need these very same things.
“In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
We have seen his glory,
the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father,
full of grace and truth.”
John 1:1 & 14