When I decided to write my Christmas novella, A Groovy Christmas, I revisited the year 1968. I’m telling my age when I reveal that this was the year I graduated from high school. It was a big year for me, of course. My parents and I hosted an exchange student from Chili. I was a member of the Student Council in charge of assemblies. I took my first journalism class, where the teacher told me that one day I would “remove my rose colored glasses.” My band traveled to Washington, D.C., to march in the Cherry Blossom Festival which was canceled because of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King. I participated in a six weeks English literature study program in Nottingham, England. Oh, yes, and then I went to college that fall and met the man who I would marry a few years later.
Sure, it was a big year, for me, but also a big year for the country. I didn’t remember all the horrible events of that year, much as we’ve experienced lately in a new century with 9/11 and the long wars. Reliving 1968 before writing the novella brought added perspective to today. Times have been tough for all of us whenever we’ve lived. I think of my parents and World War II, their parents making ends meet with large families during The Depression. Even back to my Civil War ancestors and those who fought in the Revolutionary War. They all saw tough times.
And somehow survived.
In A Groovy Christmas, my hero and heroine pause on Christmas Eve to watch the Apollo 8 astronauts.
“That was from Genesis,” Kate murmured, her voice hushed and awed. “We are so blessed.”
Grant nodded, still absorbing all that he had seen and heard. The universe was so vast. In the context of space, the Vietnam War and his family feud with the Fields 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.
We lose perspective amidst our busy daily activities. Knowing history brings it back to us. One good way to learn about history is through The American Patriot’s Almanac, the book and the daily emails you can receive. From an earlier email this week, I have copied the account of Apollo 8’s Christmas Eve broadcast.
Apollo 8’s Christmas Eve Broadcast
The year 1968 was one of the most discouraging in modern U.S. history. The Vietnam War dragged on. Despite major civil rights bills, many people feared the country was turning “increasingly separate and unequal.” The nation grieved over the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. Riots filled city streets.
At the end of this dismal year, a Saturn 5 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral on mankind’s first attempt to reach the moon. On board were three Apollo 8 astronauts: Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders. Their mission was not to land on the moon, but to orbit it ten times. NASA told their wives that the men’s chances of making it back to earth alive were about 50–50.
On Christmas Eve millions of enthralled TV viewers watched as the astronauts transmitted a blurry but miraculous image of the lunar surface. Then they heard the voice of Bill Anders: “We are now approaching lunar sunrise and, for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you. ‘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 . . .’”
The astronauts took turns reading the first ten verses of Genesis. Then Frank Borman said, “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.”
After a year of death and destruction, the astronaut’s brave journey and healing gesture were like a balm in Gilead. Apollo 8 held the promise that a free people would not fail after all. Americans coming together could still achieve wonders.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot’s Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb