By Steve Saint
In the summer of 1969, I was traveling around Europe after graduating from high school. On July 20th I was staying with a family in Zurich, Switzerland. Late that night, the family invited me to watch the first manned landing on the moon with them.
I was mesmerized and glued to my host’s little black and white TV. When the Lunar Lander rockets shut down with just 12 seconds of fuel left the room was silent, almost reverent. But the mood was shattered by the family’s grandmother. She laughed and then wrote off the entire Apollo program with its of thousands of employees, astronauts, scientists, engineers, and inventors.
“Some people really believe this thing is happening.” A family member translated her German comment for me. “But it is true” I assured her with great conviction. When my comment was translated back to her, she told me to look up from the living room window to see if I really believed men were getting ready to step out of a spaceship onto the moon.
As I looked up at the moon I felt doubt begin to take shape in my mind. I could not see Neil or Buzz from the window. No, I didn’t know any astronauts personally. I didn’t even know the announcer who was telling us what was going on. But I did know that President Kennedy had said the United States would land men on the moon. I knew that Yuri Gagarin, a Russian cosmonaut, had been reported to have been shot into space. Then Alan Shepard was the first US astronaut in space and John Glen was the first astronaut to go into orbit. And later, in the Apollo program Grissom, White and Chaffee died when their space capsule burned. No one would publicize a tragedy like that if it wasn’t true.
The reason I believed men had really, actually landed on the moon was that I had followed the space program from the very beginning. Our president’s declaration was made to the entire world. The astronauts had wives and children and friends. It was too detailed a story developed and maintained over too long a period of time with too many people involved to be a hoax. And, with my own eyes, I saw NASA build a big building with a huge dish antenna way up on the Ecuadorian pass between mount Cotopaxi and mount Iliniza to track US space flights as they orbited around the earth. I didn’t believe any country would spend that kind of money to perpetuate a lie.
Then two Gemini astronauts stopped in Quito and told us in person that they had been in space and that we were headed for the moon. But that old grandmother didn’t know the landing on the moon had been predicted. She hadn’t reviewed the chain of evidence leading step by step to this great event.
Now, let’s consider the most preposterous, most outlandish, incredible, unreasonable story of all. People, including me and probably you too, believe that God created the universe with billions of stars in each of a billion galaxies and then chose one tiny spec of cosmic dust orbiting an insignificant star in the Milky Way galaxy on which to create life. And the highest form of life God made in his own image. He gave men and women a conscience and instructions to manage their lives and to manage the other forms of life He had created.
As this outlandish story develops, things went horribly wrong until God wished He hadn’t created any of it. Finally, God invaded the dust particle He had made to conquer it. But he didn’t appear with flashes of lightning and peels of thunder riding a snorting stallion with His bulging muscles gripping a spear and a sword. No, as the story goes, He came as a baby born to a poor family of an obstinate people ruled by the iron fist of an immoral and indulgent nation.
The only way an outrageous story like this will be believed is to start with the chain of evidence. There are books full of details predicting this story over hundreds and hundreds of years. And the story was witnessed by real people who wrote down what happened when that baby grew up. He was so hated that He was brutally killed in front of a crowd of witnesses. He was so humble that his family didn’t have a cemetery plot. But He came back to life and lots of people saw Him which is a key part of the story. But here is the most incredible and unbelievable part of this preposterous story.
That baby named Jesus later claimed that He would create a new place for us to live for ever, after we die here. And He said in this new place called El Cielo, Mbinguni, Paradis, and Oonaede… there will be no more dying or crying, no more pain and no more sorrow; too good to be true. More outlandish still, he said places in Heaven are reserved for bank robbers, gossipers, liars, mean parents, Republicans and Democrats, skeptics, poor and rich, and on and on; but only if we believe, obey, confess, and miraculously become perfect, which would be impossible without a miracle God performs for us. Just google “how to get into Heaven!” I just reviewed 56 Bible passages.
We celebrate Christ-mass with decorations, presents, special tantalizing foods, vacations and parties. All but covered up by all that is the most preposterous story ever told. The very best way to make this outlandish story believable is to tell how we came to realize that it was true.
Finally, to make this story both attractive and credible, we need to tell how this unbelievable story has affected us; how it has changed us and our outlook on life.
You want to know a little detail the Astronauts told about their time on the moon? They said the moon dust smells like spent gun powder. Who would make that up? This Christmas let’s dust off our personal Christmas stories and tell someone.