Bible Verses Read as US Crew Orbited the Moon

Christmas 1968 & 1969

Christmas 1968 & 1969

Did you know?

On December 24, 1968, in what was the most watched television broadcast at the time, the crew of Apollo 8 read in turn from the Book of Genesis as they orbited the moon. Bill Anders, Jim Lovell, and Frank Borman recited verses 1 through 10, using the King James Version text.

Afterward, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, founder of American Atheists, responded by suing the United States government, alleging violations of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court dismissed the suit due to lack of jurisdiction.

And so the craziness began.

Yet, for those of us who lived through the moon flights, this was an awe-inspiring occurrence. I used it in my book A Groovy Christmas when Kate and Grant watched the television broadcast.

Christmas Eve 1968
Legend, Tennessee

At 9:30 in the evening, Walter Cronkite came on TV, anchoring the broadcast featuring live video images from outer space. Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, had entered lunar orbit with its crew of Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders.

“This is amazing,” Kate said breathlessly. She sat forward and the little calico cat hopped off her lap.

Pictures of the lunar surface appeared on the screen. Captivated immediately, Grant stared at the grainy, poor-quality video while each astronaut talked about his impression of the moon and what it was like to be in orbit above lifeless gray craters and mountains. One astronaut described it as “a vast, lonely, forbidding expanse of nothing.”

Kate’s eyes were full of wonderment. “Imagine going to the moon!”

Grant couldn’t find his voice. His throat clogged with a sublime sense of awe. Why was this mission moving him so much? He regarded those fearless men, who had little chance of returning home, with respect. They were doing something important and making a difference.

“We’re now approaching the lunar sunrise,” said the scratchy voice of William Anders.

A full view of earth appeared on the TV rising over the gray horizon of the moon. The orb seemed suspended in an empty blackness, but swirled with the color of life.

“For all the people on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send you,” Anders continued.

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

“And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

“And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”

In a deeper voice, Jim Lovell picked up the Biblical reading:

“And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

“And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

“And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”

Frank Borman finished reading:

“And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

“And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.”

Then Borman added, “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.”

“That was from Genesis,” Kate murmured, her voice hushed and awed. “We are so blessed.”

Grant nodded, still absorbing all he had seen and heard. The universe was so vast. In the context of space, the Viet Nam war and his family feud with the Fields family seemed petty and senseless. His heart warmed with a profound sense of wonder. It was almost as if he needed this broadcast to cheer him up after a year fraught with death and disillusionment.

He glanced at Kate. She wiped a tear from her eye. He reached out and fingered a strand of hair that touched her shoulder. She turned and smiled.

At that moment, his world altered and arranged itself differently like scatterings of puzzle pieces dropping into place. He sensed he belonged here with Kate, and his life suddenly didn’t feel so unsettled.

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