Friday, January 07, 2011

Marching Out His Army of Stars

At about 7.30 this evening, I stuck my head out of the front door and glanced upwards. I wanted to check that there was a clear sky. Then I scuttled back into the house, made a thermos of hot chocolate and put on a second pair of socks. The plan was to go stargazing.

Earlier on in the day, while listening to the local radio, I heard the invitation to join the Astronomical Society in looking at the stars. There were other things on offer to do on a Friday night – a local church was hosting an evening of top class bands. Created by “Open Doors Youth” – it seemed aimed at a younger generation, and even if the older generations were also invited along, I was sure it would be loud and throbbing. The stars were calling to me!

Isaiah 40:26 “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

The Astronomical Society has a website. I took a while looking through the gallery of the photographs of the stars they had taken. I even watched a two minute video of the stars in the sky. Nothing moved – I thought maybe they had caught a shooting star or something. It was the same patch of stars – for two minutes.

I read the page about “Star Gazing Etiquette”. I could do the dressing in layers, the hot chocolate and walking around waving arms to keep warm. I worried a little bit about parking beside the gate if I wanted to leave early. There was a 300 metre walk that required a torch. It was the torch that worried me. They were very insistent that the torch had a red light rather than a white one because it took the eyes twenty minutes to adjust to darkness and if you shone a white light, no one would see the stars quite so well for the following twenty minutes. I decided to just blunder around in the dark.

It seemed as if everyone and his next door neighbour took up the invitation. I arrived on time to discover the small observatory and its compound teeming with people and telescopes. Those that didn’t have telescopes had binoculars, and they were all looking upwards, pointing out various constellations to the uninitiated.

I have to admit that even without a telescope or a pair of binoculars, the sky with all the stars was just glorious. There were so many of them, and the more you looked, the more stars there seemed to be.

There was a slow moving queue to look at the big telescope inside a small observatory. The lens was fixed on Jupiter. I thought it was slightly out of focus, but the expert assured me that the problem was not the telescope but the atmosphere. I am used to seeing photos of stars and planets multi-coloured and dramatic. I guess I have seem too many episodes of Star Trek spin offs. My momentary anti-climax at seeing this small pale ball, with a dark band around the middle – Jupiter – was overtaken by a sudden realization that I was seeing something that was far, far in the distance. I thought about all those stars out there, and how some of them probably no longer existed. The light I was seeing in that spot was hundreds and thousands of years old. Amazing!

This is the handiwork of the God that I know.

In the words of The Message, He (God) marches this army of stars out each night, counts them off, calls each by name - so magnificent! So powerful! - and never overlooks a single one.”

It’s a big army!

And yet...

The One who takes the stars and flings
Them wide for all to see
Creation balanced on His palm
Yet still He cares for me

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