Monday, December 24 – Midnight

“Christmas Moon”

T’was the night before Christmas

And looming among the stars

Was a yellow orb and red dot:

The Full Moon and Mars!

At midnight I looked up

To see this great site,

And behold, red dust clouds

Hid Mars from my sight

But the Yule Moon was Bright

And the night sky did glow

Christmas was dawning

Yet there was no snow.

So much for my Christmas poem, but it serves my purpose of revealing what caught my attention tonight as soul tuned into the meaning of the season: That a bright star from the East shone brightly over Bethlehem that first Christmas Eve, and I imagine the Moon was in conjunction with both Mars and Venus, heralding the dawn of a new age for humanity in the birth of a King.

Christmas Eve in Madison, 2007:

At midnight in Madison, we saw the Yule Moon in all its bright glory, surrounded by moving clouds that cast the orb a thick red haze. Here’s what the occultation it looked like in Berlin (where our exchange student, Toni, lives and who has now returned home):

Mars in opposition on Christmas Eve must mean something, at least astronomically if not astrologically, so I consulted one of the many cosmic seers. Here’s what Deborah Byrd et al on The Earth & Sky Radio Series said tonight:

“…the red planet Mars reaches opposition today. It’s momentarily opposite the sun in Earth’s sky, as Earth goes between the sun and Mars. Oppositions of Mars are celebrated because – around this time – Earth and Mars are closest together in space, and Mars shines brightly in our night sky. If you were above the solar system today, you’d see the sun, Earth and Mars aligned in space. Earth – in its smaller, faster orbit – is racing in between the sun and Mars. Because Mars stands opposite the sun as seen from Earth, the red planet rises over our eastern horizon at sunset tonight. It climbs overhead around midnight and sets in the west at sunrise. The next Martian opposition will be January of 2010. But not all Mars oppositions are equal. Some bring Mars closer than others. Tonight is the closest Mars opposition until the year 2016. “

Okay, thank you Deborah, but what is the cosmic significance of the occultation of the full Moon and Mars? Rather than consult the charts, I returned the Christmas story in Matthew:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the land of Judah, during the reign of Herod the King, astrologers from the East arrived in Jerusalem and asked: “Where is the one who is to be King of the Jews? We saw his star arise in the Eastern sky that signaled his birth. We are on pilgrimage to worship him.

From the perspective of heaven, the relatively small blue planet suddenly had great cosmic significance. Then, and still now, for Earth is the footstool of Heaven, declares the Psalmist:

Christmas Eve, 1968:

I remember how I felt as a teenager on Christmas Eve in 1968. Like most earthlings, I watched television transfixed as the Apollo 8 space crew waved to us from the moon and invoked the name of God in outer space. Until that time no human being had seen an earth rise.

The astronauts who would soon land on the moon were the first to directly view the “dark side” and thus the first to witness the earth rise over the Moon. It was a turning point in earth history, a cosmic moment that put humanity in its rightful place, not at the center of the universe, but in a humbler spot in the galaxy. Frank Borman’s simple words, then, seem a fitting Christmas greeting on this full moon night:

“And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close, with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”

Back to Madison, 2007

I join my voice to those who have seen the same Light,

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.