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Let There Be Dark

Not only are the images from the James Webb Space Telescope brilliant and beautiful, but they are also baffling. Approximately 40 pairs of a new classification of orb have been identified within pictures of the Orion Nebula.

Dubbed JuMBOs—Jupiter Mass Binary Objects—these objects defy our current, conventional understanding of how planets, stars, and gravitational orbits work. Unlike normal planets, the Jupiter-sized pairs don’t orbit a star. Astronomers don’t know why—or how—they function in this way. As The New York Times put it, they are “a complete mystery.”

These images and discoveries coming back from the far reaches of space put us in our place. They bring to the forefront how expansive the universe is, how small we are, how much we don’t know, and how much there is yet to discover. When we consider the heavens—the star clusters, nebulae, black holes, and now JuMBOs—who are we? What is humankind that God is mindful of us and cares for us, as Psalm 8:3–4 says?

In “God’s Promises Are Clearest When We Turn Out the Lights,” Cort Gatliff reflects that “the stars provide perspective. They humble us by highlighting our finitude. Yet they also lift up our heads by reminding us of our infinite worth in the eyes of the Creator.” And while stunning images from space let us glimpse celestial realities we’d never be able to see with the naked eye, simple nighttime starscapes also invite us into awe and wonder.

During Advent, we often read this prophecy from Isaiah: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (9:2). In a spiritual and emotional sense, the recent heaviness of war, natural disasters, and other global tragedies helps us understand even more deeply what it means to be people walking in darkness. And this deep darkness only magnifies what it is to gaze upon the Light of the World. Amid it all, God is mindful of us. God does care for us. The Light of the World shines in the darkness.

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