Last week, NASA successfully landed a probe on the surface of Mars. I know it would have been easy to miss in the flood of White-House-scandal-news, but this was BIG NEWS. This was potentially game-changing, reality-altering news.
Think about it — one day, there will likely be humans on Mars, first to explore it, then possibly to live on it! That’s a pretty astounding thought. For a species which evolved on one planet to eventually find itself inhabiting a completely different planet that is, on average, 140 million miles away is mind-boggling.
I’m a strange person, though, and one of the first thoughts that occurred to me was, “Imagine what it would be like to celebrate Christmas on Mars …”
And then it hit me like a ton of Mars bricks — What would we SING at Christmas?
That’s a serious question! Have you noticed how many Christmas carols would need significant revision were we to sing them on Mars?
Exhibit A is the Yuletide favorite, “Joy to the World.” Notice that the joy is for the WORLD, not for other assorted planets. But if you’re celebrating somewhere NOT not on this world, what would you sing? You can’t sing, “Let earth receive her king” lest Mars feel left out of all the joy.
Exhibit B comes from our own Charles Wesley’s pen. He wrote, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” which includes the line, “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” Wouldn’t you feel a little left out of all the peace and mercy if you were on Mars?
Then there’s Exhibit C, the song, “Angels From the Realm of Glory,” which opens with the words, “Angels from the realms of glory, Wing your flight o’er all the earth; Ye who sang creation’s story; Now proclaim Messiah’s birth.” So are the angels going to make the flight out to Mars to sing the story there, too?
Why are all the good Christmas carols so EARTH-centric?
Advent songs aren’t any better. Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus,” sings of Jesus, “Hope of all the earth thou art.” And one of the verses of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” which we typically use as a song to sing during the lighting of the Advent candle, includes the line, “Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.”
This also raises some interesting theological questions, though. For example, did Jesus come to save ONLY the people of earth? Would intelligent life on other planets require their own Jesus-figure? Or is Jesus a truly universal being?
What if life evolved differently on another planet? Would their “intelligent life forms” also be born with “original sin”? Would the song, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” be true for their world, too? “Yet with the woes of sin and strife / The world has suffered long; Beneath the angel-strain have rolled / Two thousand years of wrong.”
I don’t have any really good answers to any of these questions, mind you. I’ll wait until the seminaries start opening degree programs in Interplanetary Theology, but until then, I’m still very concerned about the lack of quality Christmas carols to sing in space.
Well, at least Santa Claus visits all the planets … right? I mean, that’s true, isn’t it? Wait … WHAT???!!!