By Scott Gerbrandt, Manitoba Director
Have you heard about it yet? There is a celestial moment coming to you this December 21st that has not been observed for 400 years. The “great conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn. Now to be fair, the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter happens about every 20 years but this particular moment has these two gas giants within 0.1 degree of each other in the night sky – they have not been this close in over 400 years. While this event is easily observed just by looking up in the south sky on a clear night, if you have access to a telescope you’ll be able to catch them together in all their glory (including Jupiter’s moons and Saturn’s rings).
On a warm night late summer I was able to observe both these two magnificent planets in my brother’s back yard with his telescope. Ever so carefully moving it back and forth between planets, I marvelled at being able to see the rings of Saturn as well as the 4 moons of Jupiter. All summer and into fall it’s been great to glance up at the night sky and watch them dance ever so closer together. There have been a few moments where, in my excitement, I point out to my kids (all nearing or in their teens), “look at Jupiter and Saturn and how close they are!” However, (including eye rolls), my kids will quickly and correctly point out that these two planets are still VERY far apart from each other. Yes this is true, even though looking at them they will appear to only be 1/5th of our moon’s diameter they will in fact be over 460 million kms apart. My boys are like that – ever so helpful in pointing out the painfully obvious facts of the matter.
So, this wonder in the sky has me pondering…
This year has held many experiences for me (for us) that seem to emphasize the vast difference between where I thought things might be to where they actually are. And, have I been able to catch a glimpse of the beauty in these moments?
There is a dancing tension in our lives. Much of the news about biodiversity loss, climate change and the pandemic highlights the very real and vast distance between where we are and how far we must go to see things to change. Yet there are moments of beauty to behold as we make, or should I say stumble, our way forward. So I feel challenged by the teaching of this celestial wonder. It is a call to catch the beauty of the moment amidst the tension of very real distances and challenges.
Isn’t this the magic of Advent?
The season of Advent is a time when we anticipate and long for the arrival of Jesus – the one whose birth announcement proclaims “Peace on Earth!” Advents invites us to sit with the fact that there are moments and challenges where the story of restoration found in the Christian Narrative still seems so far away. And yet, there are also moments when we are able to catch a glimpse of sheer beauty and greatness. I wonder if the magi who covered vast distances to be near the Christ child felt similarly as they navigated the dangers of King Herod, and followed the beauty of the star of Bethlehem towards its Promise. Advent invites to embrace this paradox, to live into and be transformed by the mystery.
If you are able, and the skies are clear, I invite you to look up and catch a glimpse this December 21st of the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. (You don’t even need a telescope!) May you behold the beauty of the moment knowing that while there are great distances yet to be covered to bring about God’s promise of restoration and peace between people and creation, there is beauty and joy in the journey.