Blessed Beads of Light, in the 1940 Sky
Whenever I hear or read of how the skies gleamed brilliantly the night of the First Christmas, I also recall how the black skies lit up for me over 70 years ago during the 1940 Holy Season. Oh, so different but, I never think of The One, without the other.
I was flying home from Denver. It was an ebony-black night and as we flew high over the mountains, the Pilot told us we were soaring over a sight seldom seen, and that he was shutting off all lights so we could appreciate the beauty,
And he jokingly added, “It looks as if God has put up His Christmas decorations, too.”
And so, with every light OFF, and no stars shining, there in the inky-black that surrounded us I couldn’t even see my own hands. But I did see lights below, or with lack of good orientation from the sudden blackness, were those lights above? But either way, somewhere out there, were three or four clusters of lights separated by long, long, stretches of utter blackness, except for a broken string of lights that seemed to be trying to hold them together.
It looked to me, as if some woman might have carelessly dropped a long string of beads, letting them break, curl, twist, and gather in bunches as they lay where they fell.
Or Christmas decorations strung and awaiting our touch, or, and my mind drifted to how Saint Luke told of when the sky was lit with lights, at the time of Jesus’s birth.
But what we saw, was breath-taking. It was an utterly black world where delicate strings of light, drifted between groups of lights, and, dis-oriented in the sudden utter blackness, I really couldn’t be certain whether I was looking UP or if the lights were DOWN. Even the plane seemed to be quietly resting on a black cushion. And, as I recall that night, it still seems as though the plane, people, the entire scene was immovably locked in that one marvelous moment.
And the Pilot, like a Voice from a Void, told that the northern lights (North? South?, West? East? Up? Down?). were the City of Ogden, Ogden? What did that City have to do with such deep blackness . . . but the pilot continued that Salt Lake City formed the largest cluster, and far away at the end of an almost fading string of lights was the City of Provo
But, no matter. What we saw was a black void, with scattered lights that were gently connected by a thin string of lights, that was interrupted just once by a few lights off to one side that, we were told, was The Murray Smelter.
Not a one of us could know that the possibility of such a view would be a tale met with disbelief and wonder in but a few years.
For me, I doubt if that scene can ever again be duplicated any place in the entire world, for every corner of our entire world now has people who, 24 hours every day and night, need and have electricity, well lit cities and highways. And so I wonder, “Did it really happen?” And yes, believe it or not, it did, and, I was one of a dozen or so on that small plane from Denver, who saw it..
It is so easily explained for the world was just beginning to see the end of the 1930’s Great Depression, and the ‘string of a few pale lights’ were cars on State Road No. 89 which connected Utah cities, and the lights were few because few people had any reason to drive those roads in the middle of a night.
People ate their meals at home, and so there were no hundreds of fast-food eateries, cafes, rest stops, bars or motels along the roads. There were few movie houses, no bowling alleys, or any other places that needed lights at night.
World War II was the catalyst that changed our world with people, who were soon working both night and day, depending on cafes or drive-ins for meals, and before no more than a few years, not only our vallies would be bright with lights, but rhe same could be said for the whole world.
And each Christmas as I meditate upon that brightly lit sky of 2,000 years ago, at the same time, I remember that 1940 Christmas night when I saw our black world beginning to come alive with 24-7 lights. And, though it happened over 70 years ago, its beauty remains part of the Christmas Holiday for me.
And I hope yours is a Blessed One with your own Blessed Memories.