John Denney, 9 January 2001


Doesn’t Christmas seem a long time ago? All that food, and now all those diets to make up for it! The cards from distant – and not-so-distant - friends and relatives have gone; the tree that looked so pretty shed its leaves and has been sent for recycling; the tinsel and glitter have been put away. And, following tradition, we took it all down on Twelfth Night, the same day that the Church remembers the journey of the wise men to worship the new-born Jesus.


The wise men saw something unprecedented in the sky – a star that moved and eventually stopped exactly where Jesus and his mother were living. This evening, if the sky is clear, we will be able to see – if not an unprecedented, at least a fairly unusual - event in the sky. There’s to be a total eclipse of the moon. Clouds permitting, it will be a brilliant spectacle.


Isn’t the night sky an awesome sight? Those uncountable numbers of galaxies; those trillions of stars in each galaxy; those unknowable numbers of planets and moons that revolve round them. And humankind sees the skies as something to reach out for, something that we want to investigate. There’s enough romance in us to want to “boldly go” and explore the skies, just like the Starship Enterprise. Last week I explored some titchy hills on the Welsh borders, and I have to say that it wasn’t so much a case of “to boldly go”, more a case of “to oldly blow - and puff and pant and wheeze!” But I digress.


Here in Leicester we have the immense privilege of being home to the National Space Centre, soon to be completed. And even more exciting, there’s the possibility that Mission Control for a Mars expedition will be run from here, if funds can be raised. The Space Centre is a landmark for the spirit of hope and curiosity that God placed into the hearts of us human beings, and it is an honour for Leicester to be chosen as the focus of that endeavour.


You see, looking outwards, exploring, is absolutely necessary for humankind. We need a purpose, both in our individual lives, and as the human race. Space exploration, even if it’s only with the naked eye, like the wise men, or tonight at the eclipse, fulfils part of God’s design for us. As it says in the Bible: Where there is no vision, the people perish. [Proverbs 29:18]


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