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And God Created…the Sun, Moon, and Stars: Day Four

As both a woman of faith and one who takes conscious steps to adopt earth-friendly practices in my life, I have recently found myself increasingly fascinated by how the story of Creation embodies ecological principles. Compelled by Creation, I decided to engage in an open-ended reflection on the day-by-day Genesis story.

And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.And it was so. God made two great lights— the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:14-18

What would your perfect day look like?

Mine would include a spirited family volleyball game at the beach, followed by a picnic, some light reading, and maybe an afternoon nap in the sand. We wake up refreshed, watch the sun’s rays wane, and gather with our loved ones to grill on the deck as the cloak of night descends. Tonight we are blessed with a full moon, which we take in as we set off on a night hike along the shore, charting our course as we identify constellations and asterisms along the way.

Anybody who has tasted any part of a day similar to my “perfect” one can attest to the sheer bliss we experience taking in the spectacular array of lights God lovingly disperses throughout the sky. Really, every day is a “perfect day” because without lights in the sky, “day” as we know it wouldn’t exist! In addition to their stunning visuals, the sun, moon, and stars perform a highly specific task, as ordained by God and narrated in Genesis: they organize time, and, by extension, our lives. As these blessed verses mirrored in Psalm 104:19 remind us, not only do the sky’s lights tell us when to work, eat, and sleep, but they also regulate our seasons and times of worship—all according to our Maker’s divine plan.

Solar eclipse glasses reveal a tiny sliver of sun still strong enough to illuminate the sky. Photo: Jason Howell

Our Sky Lights Over Time

Imagine a time before the invention of GPS! Thanks to a bright star in the east, the Magi made their way to Bethlehem, and throughout time, explorers have set sail across oceans, navigating paths to previously unknown lands by positioning themselves in relation to the sun, moon, and stars. Regardless of how we currently chart our path, we are all aware of how central the sun is to our lives. Our wondrous source of light and warmth, the sun is likewise a necessary force in cultivating our crops. We know stepping outside on a sunny day is a sure pick-me-up when we’re feeling blue.  

One means of attempting to gauge the power of the sun is to consider the rare natural phenomenon of the solar eclipse, so stunningly captured by Annie Dillard. What strikes me most in her seminal essay “Total Eclipse” is her comparison of a partial eclipse to a total one. She remarks in the case of the former, even with 94% of the sun’s light blocked, the sky changes colors without actually going dark as the ambient temperature dips. An even more compelling demonstration of the sun’s sheer power comes with a total eclipse, which features the still, dark sky accompanied by a distant, hollow ring of light.  

Still image from “Le Voyage Dans La Lune” or “A Trip to the Moon” directed by Georges Méliès courtesy of Public Domain Project.

As part of the nighttime mystique, the moon and stars are no less riveting. Long before Neil Armstrong set foot there in 1969, the moon had been held in fascination by earthlings.  In fact, one of the world’s first films ever made, Georges Méliès’ 1902 “A Trip to the Moon,” was a sci-fi movie representing the moon as a space of curiosity and imagination.  Likewise, our long-standing captivation with the Star Wars sagas confirms that our penchant for the mysteries of the universe is nowhere close to waning.  

Restoring Order 

As part of God’s plan, the set of lights He gave the world work in perfect conjunction with each other: day becomes night, weeks become months and years, plants grow at certain times, and the seasons rotate with the typical telltale signs—there is a time for everything. Yet, over time, the warming climate is causing our seasons to shift, which carries consequences for our food supply, our species, and all of earth’s ecosystems.  Similarly, our modern reliance on artificial light at night can send confusing signals to nocturnal animal species, throwing off their natural life patterns. Light pollution can negatively impact humans, disrupting circadian rhythms and potentially causing insomnia, obesity, and other illnesses.

It is a mournful fact that a third of humanity can no longer see the Milky Way.  How can we redress our relationship with the sky’s light system? 

Fortunately, we can arrest its decline by taking concrete steps to stabilize the Earth’s temperatures. Small steps—like driving fuel-efficient cars and becoming involved in sustainable city planning—can make an enormous difference in reducing the flow of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and slow down the Earth’s warming trend. On some nights, rather than stare at our ever-glowing screens, we can grab a loved one and a telescope and frolic under the stars, or gaze at the moon. Limiting our artificial light emissions can helpsett things back on God’s established course, and also nurture our family ties and friendships as we revel in the bounty of our Maker’s gifts. 

Photo: Casey Horner

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