December 24, 2014 | David F. Coppedge

Comparing Astronaut Christmas Greetings from 1968 and 2014

On Apollo 8 Christmas Eve 46 years ago, astronauts read from Genesis. You won’t believe what today’s astronauts had to say for holiday greetings. rebroadcast the original unedited video from December 24, 1968, when Borman, Lovell and Anders greeted earthlings from lunar orbit with the profound words of Genesis 1:1-10, ending with these greetings, “And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you – all of you on the good earth.”

It is now Christmas Eve 46 years later.  The Apollo program ended, Skylab ended, the Shuttle program has ended, and now the astronauts in space this Christmas are on the International Space Station.  Since the late 1960s, the world has changed significantly.  The New Atheism has risen.  Political correctness has made it nearly impossible for anyone connected with science, academia or the government to express religious sentiments, lest they be accused of violating separation of church and state.  Merchants are warned to give neutral expressions like Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings.  Manger scenes are banned in city parks.  The word “Christmas” is replaced in some cities and schools for phrases like “holiday trees” and “festive lights,” while offices have a “holiday party” instead of a Christmas party.  In some places, even Santa Claus or the colors red and green together are considered too religious for public display.

With that background in mind, the Christmas greetings from astronauts Navy Captain Barry Wilmore and Air Force Colonel Terry Virts on the ISS, posted in a video clip on without comment, may seem surprising:

Wilmore: We want to take the opportunity just briefly to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Terry and I, you know, Christmas for us is a time of worship.  It’s a time to think back to the birth of what we consider to be of our Lord.  And we will always do that at our homes; we plan to do the same thing up here—just a little time to reflect on those topics, and also as well, just like the wise men gave gifts, we have a couple of gifts. You’ll notice some stockings behind us here, so we have a couple of gifts for each other, so we’ll share in that as well.

Virts: It’s such an honor and it’s so much fun to celebrate Christmas up here. This is definitely going to be a Christmas that we’ll remember, getting a chance to see the beautiful Earth—and I hope that for you also it will be a memorable Christmas this year.  Have fun with your family, and enjoy the day, and Merry Christmas!

Wilmore: Merry Christmas!

The astronauts held onto a small Christmas tree as they spoke with big smiles on their faces.  Earthlings can Tweet back a greeting to the astronauts on a NASA portal.

Update 12/24/14: Today, posted some text along with the videos of the two greetings.  Staff writer Kelly Dickerson told the history of the Apollo 8 clip and the astronaut’s reasons for choosing to read from Genesis (“The first 10 verses of Genesis is the foundation of many of the world’s religions, not just the Christian religion”), but she said nothing about the Christian content of the new greeting.  Her sanitized description just says: “Now, crewmembers of the International Space Station celebrate with Christmas decorations, phone calls to Earth and some special holiday food.”  Miriram Kramer, another reporter, showed pictures of the decorations, and quoted the last part of the astronauts’ greeting, but not the Christian part.  Both reporters did use the word “Christmas” though, not just “holiday.”

It’s profoundly refreshing to see bold and happy guys say it like it is, with good cheer and an uncompromising message about the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Lord.  No mealy-mouthed “happy holidays” but Christmas, wise men, and the Savior’s birth. So Apollo 8 looked back to the beginning in the Old Testament, and these two astronauts looked back to the coming of the promised Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Honestly, before watching this video clip, I was expecting the worst: secularized greetings pre-approved by NASA censors. I knew from my experience at NASA-JPL that “Christmas parties” were frowned upon, and offices were informed by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee to have “holiday parties” instead of “Christmas parties” so as not to offend those who might not identify with Christmas.  It became increasingly oppressive over the years, to the point where red and green colors were removed for more general wintery decor, and holiday parties were purely secular occasions to celebrate who-knows-what.  Given’s secular orientation, its editors must not have known what to say.  They couldn’t censor this message in good conscience, but had no comment until a day later, when Dickerson totally ignored its Christian content.  What is it about secular reporters that they can never say anything nice about Christianity?

Both astronaut teams in 1968 and now 2014 must have been inspired by the view of Earth down below, hanging there like a jewel in the darkness.  To Borman it was the “the good Earth,” and to Virts, “the beautiful Earth.”  No other generation has had that vantage point to “reflect on those topics” of Earth’s goodness and beauty, surprised by the goodness and beauty of God’s love for us.  Remember, Christmas is not sectarian, partisan, or insensitive.  What did the angels say?  “Behold, we bring you good tidings of great joy for all people.”  Scientists and reporters are people, too.   “Merry Christmas” is for all mankind; God bless us, every one.






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