This week’s eNewsletter Feature
was written by Jim Teague
FPCE director of communications.
A recent article in The Atlantic reported that many astronauts, including “space tourists” like William Shatner of Star Trek fame, have been profoundly changed by the experience of seeing Earth from beyond our atmosphere.
“It’s extraordinary,” Shatner said upon his return. “Extraordinary. I hope I never recover from this.”
After becoming the first American in space in 1962, astronaut Alan Shepard said “No one could be briefed well enough to be completely prepared for the astonishing view that I got. My exclamation about the ‘beautiful sight, was completely spontaneous. It was breathtaking.”
After interviewing dozens of astronauts and high-altitude test pilots, author Frank White coined the phrase “The Overview Effect.” White later wrote a book on the phenomenon by the same name (learn more here).
One of the common themes of these experiences was the realization that national boundaries are, for the most part, impossible to see and mostly a man-made construct. A second was the sense of the shared experience we all have of co-existing on this tiny, fragile planet.
Perspective is a wonderful thing.
I’ve shared in the past that I often get a bit “down” after Christmas Day is over. I don’t know if I overhype the holiday so much ahead of time in my mind that it can’t help but be a disappointment once it arrives, or if it’s just that the festive colored lights on our house now have to come down. Whatever it is, I have decided to change my perspective heading into 2023.
While I’ve never been much for making (or at least for keeping) resolutions, I am going to look at 2023 differently than I have in the past. I think I will consider the calendar as more of a man-made construct than an actual thing… kind of like borders on a map.
There is, I believe, some scriptural encouragement toward such an approach.
One of my favorite passages in all of Scripture is where God questions Job after he complains that God has not treated him justly. Here is a portion from Job 38:19-21
19 “Where is the way to the dwelling of light,
and where is the place of darkness,
20 that you may take it to its territory
and that you may discern the paths to its home?
21 Surely you know, for you were born then,
and the number of your days is great!
Talk about getting some perspective! God reminds Job (and us) that we have a skewed view of time. We think in terms of a day, a week, a month, or a year. God sits outside of time, and has been, is, and will always be. (James 4:14 says we “are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Ouch.)
If we as Christians (little Christs) are meant to imitate Jesus, then it only makes sense that we should imitate his eternal perspective, right (my analogy is straining to the point of snapping, but bear with me)? What I am trying to say (to myself first) is that there is no need for me to mourn the passing of another Christmas, the entry into another year, or the taking down of blinking colored lights.
Because the truth of it remains. Christ is born! He is Emmanuel – God with us! He lived, died, and has been risen, now one with the Father and the Holy Spirit! My own experience in attempting to walk with him year after year (imperfectly, to be sure) testifies to it! So why let the Gregorian calendar bring me down?
At the end of A Christmas Carol, Dickens writes it was said of Scrooge “that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” I want to keep Christmas well; the true meaning of Christmas! God has promised those who testify that Jesus Christ is the savior have found their way out of the limits of time and into an eternal relationship with him!
So, I don’t need to stay up late Saturday night to mark the passage from one year to another (though I probably will because my neighbors are going to shoot off lots of fireworks either way). It’s just another day to me!
Okay. I’m finished with my hyperbole and overly emphatic exclamations.
I will, of course, still use my digital planner to keep track of deadlines and days off. I suspect that by the second week of February I will be suffering from a mild case of Seasonal Affective Disorder (the winter blues). I will likely find myself getting excited about the return of baseball in the spring (though my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates will probably sour my mood by the All-Star break).
But I will endeavor to keep Christmas alive in my heart throughout 2023. Blinking lights or no blinking lights.
In January, we will begin a new extended teaching series about dedicating our heads, hearts, and hands to living as disciples of Jesus Christ. Firmly believing that God has prompted this series for the people of First Pres, the church staff members are united in our excitement to see what God does in and through his people (that would be you)!
We invite you to join us in our enthusiasm and pray for God’s purposes to be accomplished throughout 2023 and beyond at First Pres, because a year is really just a number, right?
Your fellow mist,
FPCE Director of Communications