Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Long Ago Christmas Moon

"And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sure afraid. And the angel said unto them: fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward all people."

The Gospel according to St.Luke
Chapter 2, verses 9:14
from the King James Bible


On August 1, I published a piece on this site called, "Coming of Age in the Sixties". It was a reminiscence of Christmas Eve 1968, forty years ago tonight, when three men orbited the moon for the very first time. It was a gentle, hopeful end to what had been a tumultuous year....


With the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy in the spring, the mindless violence inflicted by the Chicago Police upon hapless demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention in August, and the endless and graphic carnage from South East Asia that was being televised into living rooms throughout the country - night after depressing night - a sensitive and impressionable ten-year-old could very easily have been overwhelmed by the thought that the world was coming to an end. So it was with me.

But then, on Christmas Eve, an epiphany....

That was the night that the crew of Apollo 8 became the first human beings to orbit the moon. Upon emerging from that asteroid's dark side, eternally invisible to the inhabitants of this small and fragile planet, the crew of Frank Borman, Bill Anders and James Lovell broadcast a message to the world. Turning to scripture, they quoted from the Book of Genesis:

"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...."

At the conclusion of that transmission, Commander Borman, no doubt reflecting on the turmoil of the year which was about to mercifully end, said these words:

"And so from the crew of Apollo Eight, we close with good night, good luck, a merry Christmas, and God bless all of you - all of you - on the good earth."

Hearing those words broadcast on the radio, my ear almost pressed against one of the two massive KHL speakers that dominated my father's stereo system, I felt the weight of the world being lifted from my shoulders. Somehow, I thought, everything was going to be alright. For decades afterwards, whenever America was confronted with some indescribable national trauma, Frank Borman's gentle words - transmitted from the heavens on that long ago Christmas Eve - would come back to calm me and I would feel better about my country.

Everything is going to be alright, I would tell myself.


Happy Christmas, everyone.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


"Blessed are the peacemakers
For they shall be called children of God"

For more recent postings on this site, please go to the link below:

And so, happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young!

-John Lennon


At 7:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Tom. A very inspiring message for us all. Merry Christmas to you. Tracy Murphy

At 7:45 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Happy Crimble to you as well, Miss Tracy! Keep warm up there in Buffalo!

Love and Peace,

Tom Degan

At 9:39 AM, Blogger dick wagner said...

Mr. Degan...I too am more hopeful as we approach the inaugeration of the potentialy great new President of the USA, Barack Obama. I recognize your particular dedication to exposing and commenting on the state of this society all year long and wish you not only a wonderful holiday season, but an inspired 2009, always on the cutting edge and as irassable as you can be. Truth seekers need support and you can count me in your corner in the hopeful days ahead.
Dick Wagner

At 9:47 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Thanks so much for the kind words, Mr. Wagner! I don't know if you readers of the Rant are aware of this, but Dick Wagner is the legendary guitarist. To get a good idea of the man's genius, pick up a copy of the 1974 LP, "Rock 'n' Roll Animal by Lou Reed. With out a doubt the greatest live album ever recorded.

Tom Degan

At 9:57 AM, Blogger SC Mike said...

Merry Christmas Tom,

I too remember that message 40 years ago like it just happened.

We should never forget it.


At 10:28 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Happy Christmas to you as well, Mike!

That was quite a moment. In many ways it was even more of an emotional experience than when Aldren and Armstrong walked on the surface of the moon seven months later.


Tom Degan

And so happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

At 8:34 AM, Blogger Heather K. van Werkhooven said...

For the first times I am feeling hopeful, as well. Even more than hopeful -- excited about politics in this country, interested in politics and more than ready to make changes happen in whatever small ways I can. Thank God those eight years are over... and thank God we have elected someone intelligent enough to fill posts with people who specialize in those particular fields -- a good sign of things to come! :)

At 6:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I know it is past Christmas, so I will wish you a peaceful new year. I am still laughing about the Blue Meanies analogy.... One of your best rants yet!

It seems that the Dark Ages still pop up now & then- in small 8 year bite-sized pieces instead of the 500 yr variety - and now the scientists and artists can once again turn their faces to the heavens and ask questions without fear of persecution.

Hopefully we are entering a period where we can all sing, dance, have fun.... actually forget about politics for awhile and just live on the Earth together.

I, too, remember well the NASA years - when it seemed mankind could do anything if we put our minds and hearts into it. As an 8 yr old glued to the lunar launches, I thought by now we would be living like the Jetsons. HA!

We wish it to each other every Holiday Season, maybe someday it will come true: Peace on Earth.

Auld Lang Syne and all that!

Jo R

At 6:45 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Your comment is music to my ears. To paraphrase Emma Goldman:

"I don't want to be a part of a revolution that I can't dance to."

I wholeheartedly concur.

All the best,
Tom Degan

At 9:35 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...


You're absolutely right. These are exciting times to be alive. Barack has said that he wants to make government service "cool" again. These are reminiscent of the early days of the New Frontier. The main difference is that John F. Kennedy wasn't facing one/tenth the mess that President Obama will be confronting when he enters the White House on 1/20.

Happy New Year to all of you!

Tom Degan
1 January 2009

At 12:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This will be printed and placed among some our favorite "holiday" writings along with some great journalists I have a feeling you'd be proud to be "placed" with...I'll tell you the names some day. Jesus's birthday and the Apollo all made sense to me at age 5!

I confess to having tears running down my cheeks every time I see this footage on television again, read about it, talk about it or even just think about it.


At 4:00 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Thank you, Mary. That was a nice thing to say. Let me know when the publication comes out. Here is my e=mail address:

All the best and happy new year!


Tom Degan


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