As Christmas approaches, and in the heavens exoplanets are glimpsed by telescopes of tremendous power, and carbon dioxide detected in their far off atmospheres, it seems appropriate to draw attention to a less well-known work by science fiction author Ray Bradbury. His sonnet/cantata “Christus Apollo” is but one of several 20th century poems and carols reflecting on the meaning of Christmas (and Christianity more generally) in the context of an age of space exploration that was (and is) just beginning to dawn. Here’s an excerpt:
Christ wanders in the Universe
A flesh of stars,
He takes on creature shapes
To suit the mildest elements,
He dresses him in flesh beyond our ken.
There He walks, glides, flies, shambling of strangeness.
Here He walks Men.
Among the ten trillion beams
A billion Bible scrolls are scored
In hieroglyphs among God’s amplitudes of worlds;
In alphabet multitudinous
Tongues which are not quite tongues
Sigh, sibilate, wonder, cry:
As Christ comes manifest from a thunder-crimsoned sky.
He walks upon the molecules of seas
All boiling stews of beast
All maddened broth and brew and rising up of yeast.
There Christ by many names is known.
We call him thus.
They call him otherwise.
His name on any mouth would be a sweet surprise.
He comes with gifts for all,
Here: wine and bread.
There: nameless foods
At breakfasts where the morsels fall from stars
And Last Suppers are doled forth with stuff of dreams.
So sit they there in times before the Man is crucified.
Here He has long been dead.
There He has not yet died.
There’s a setting of the words to music by Jerry Goldsmith.