I went comet hunting and was surprised to find and see Comet NEOWISE which was discovered four months ago. With cloud cover and light pollution, I wasn’t all that confident of spotting this new comet but we drove away from the villages onto farm roads, stopped the car, worked out where to look, and waited for our eyes to adjust. I didn’t see it at first. It wasn’t bright at all, a faint line, and then it vanished and made me wonder whether it was my imagination. But if you just looked and sort of tried not to peer then all of a sudden the comet ‘appeared’ almost like out of the corner of your eye. Head and long tail. But very faint. Nothing like the photos I had seen of it. But still it was marvellous to see and to contemplate and to wonder.
Charlotte interrupted my reverie as she mentioned that the last time we had gone comet hunting was 1986 in Australia and Halley’s Comet. We’d taken the children up into the hills late at night and were never sure whether they actually saw the comet – though they all said they did!
There is so much happening above our heads! It is obvious when they are large things such as a ‘blood moon’ or a ‘supermoon’ and easily seen. In daylight we see the birds and the planes and maybe fewer planes at the moment but the satellites, planets, stars, and galaxies are still there. And in the darkness away from light the glorious tapestry is revealed. Lying down looking up in the Australian bush always fascinated me and surprised me with how much movement you can see. The sky – we used to say more, I think, the heavens – is not still.
The celestial movements ask questions and physics goes along way to answer them. Movement also points us to meaning and purpose. Why do things move? And here we might sense other answers and philosophers would talk about a ‘Primer Mover’. King David when thinking about humanity’s place in the scheme of things and looking up said in Psalm 8 “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place” (v.3) and he begins Psalm 19 with “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (v.1). The celestial creation points to a Creator who is speaking through his handiwork, the work of his fingers, which for me has the idea of God doing needlework and cross stitch on the tapestry of the sky above – his personal contact. This creation points to a creator but the creator is hidden as we don’t really know his thoughts and feelings, though we might get an appreciation of his skill and inventiveness.
A hidden God is no help to us. Not really. It’s like being in the dark. That’s why we need God to speak, to reveal himself, to enter into a relationship with us, and why looking up at a night sky when we might feel so so small in the scheme of the universe does not fill us with dread because this sky’s hidden God has spoken in Word made flesh. The message of Christianity when we seem insignificant under a night sky and irrelevant to a comet is that we are precious to this Creator God who speaks – acts – and dies as one of us – and destroys death’s power – so that we might live a new life now under the universe – day or night – and still be living when the universe is no more. GS