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The Pale Blue Dot

December 2021 | by Geoff Chapman

CREDIT Shutterstock
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In the 2015 film The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney is left behind on Mars when the Aries III space mission goes wrong.

Initially, the crew of Aries III, returning to Earth, believe that Watney is dead, but when he finds a way to communicate with Earth, a rescue mission is launched to bring him home.

After many problems and set-backs, Watney is eventually rescued and brought back to Earth.

Science fiction has persuaded many people that aliens exist and that we aren’t alone in the universe. This belief is largely fuelled by the theory that life will arise by chance if conditions are right, and that, once established, beings capable of space travel will eventually evolve, although there is no evidence this can happen.

The SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) project has been running for many years, scanning the heavens for non-random radio signals which would be interpreted as having come from an intelligent source. Yet no signals have been detected.

When we consider the ‘fine-tuning’ of so many things which make life on Earth possible, the chance of finding other Earth-like planets is exceedingly remote.

There are so many features that point to Earth having been designed for human habitation. The Bible says: ‘He who fashioned and made the earth… did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited’ (Isaiah 45:18).

Christians also believe the earth is special in another way: 2,000 years ago God stepped into history in the Person of his Son, Jesus Christ, to save a world that had been ruined by human sin and folly.

In 1990, the Voyager 1 space probe took a remarkable photograph as it left our solar system. It was Earth – a tiny dot suspended in a sunbeam.

This photograph became known as the Pale Blue Dot. Astronomer Carl Sagan said, ‘That’s here. That’s home. That’s us… All of human history has happened on that tiny pixel.’

He also commented, ‘In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.’

Sagan was mistaken. At Christmas we celebrate the fact that help has ‘come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves’.

It came in an amazing and unique way: a tiny baby, born in Bethlehem. Much more amazing than the rescue mission depicted in The Martianor hypothetical visits by aliens!

Jesus left the glory of heaven to become one of us. The Creator entered his creation to lift us from the hopelessness of sin and make it possible for us to have a relationship with himself through his death and resurrection.

‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).

This is the real message from ‘out there’ which the world needs to hear. Let’s take time this Christmas to contemplate the wonder of God becoming man, admit our need of God’s forgiveness, and embrace the free gift of salvation and eternal life which came at such a great cost.