And so, with an audience of 1 billion hanging on their every word, Bill Anders spoke first, followed by Lovell, and then by Borman:
“For all the people on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message we would like to send to you.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.”
“And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”
“And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
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And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called the Seas: and God saw that it was good.”
The astronauts later said they picked the passage from Genesis 1 because of its importance not just for Christians but for many of the world’s major religions.
Consolmagno said the choice of that particular passage of Scripture was unexpected, but it made a lasting impression on him.
“I would have expected a Psalm about how the heavens proclaim the glory of God, but instead to have chosen that particular reading was an act of genius that I would never have thought of,” he mused.
“To hear the story of Genesis read out in that way, in that very respectful way, it was fulfilling and affirming in a way that I would never have guessed.”
On Christmas morning, the astronauts ignited the craft’s engine and headed for home. As they gathered speed, they feasted on a Christmas dinner of turkey, stuffing, and small bottles of brandy.