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The Longest Migration

Good morning. It is Thursday, March 17, 2022. Jeanette Stark here.


Every year, the Arctic Tern (a bird weighing less than five ounces) completes one of the greatest journeys in the animal kingdom.

The Tern can live up to 30 years and in their constant search for daylight, moderate temperatures, and small fish on which to feed, the Terns literally follow the sun from the North Pole to Antarctica, and back again. Their migrations can extend more than 50,000 miles, and the biological systems that make this odyssey possible offer spectacular displays of intelligent design and purpose in the living world. It is one of the greatest achievements in the animal kingdom.

Their trip begins in late April when more than a million Terns gather on shorelines and tundra in the Northern hemisphere. There they mate and prepare open nests on flat rocky terrain. The female will lay 1 to 3 eggs. After hatching the chicks will have three months to prepare for what will become a lifetime pursuit of moderate climates and plenty of food.

One day, alerted by some instinctual cue, the Terns lift off together on the longest documented migration of any animal on earth. They are well designed for the task at hand.

The Artic Tern spends close to two months in the air, every year; taking advantage of the air currents over the ocean. Scientist have attached light weight tracking devised to their legs. This technology has shown the Terns do not travel in straight lines from pole to pole, but instead fly in huge winding arcs, by riding jet streams of prevailing winds. Staying aloft for days, even weeks at a time is only one of the challenges in this epic migration. The Terns must also navigate correctly over thousands of miles of open ocean.

Scientists know that most birds use the sun as a compass to keep track of the changing angel of the sun; 15 degrees longitude every hour. So, from sunrise to sunset there is a constant change of the sun’s location, and a bird must know how to orient with that. In addition to solar navigation, it is widely believed that the birds may be able to track their exact bearings by detecting earth’s magnetic field with magnetite crystals in their beaks or specialized proteins in their eyes!

And because they also fly at night, another natural phenomenon helps guide their way. Are you ready for this? Turns out they can read star patterns. And not just a bright star like the north star that stays in one place, but constellations which move constantly with earth’s rotation. They must have a stellar compensating mechanism to keep track of the positions of the constellations.

The Terns spend the southern summer resting and feeding in the Weddell Sea. Then in early March they leave Antarctica on a return flight to their breeding grounds half a planet away.

Like all animal migrations this is more than simply a move from point A to point B. Instead, a successful journey is the product of countless biological mechanisms, instructions, and behaviors, each programmed to a Tern’s anatomy as it developed within an egg. These attributes, crucial for survival, are all clear indications of purpose and plan.

The Artic Tern’s integrated network of feathers, muscles, nerves, and bones is crafted specifically for extended flight. The bird also requires knowledge of prevailing wind patterns, movements of the sun and location of food sources in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

Now, try to imagine a scenario where all these precisely engineered components somehow just came together through a series of genetic accidents or blind interactions of matter and energy. Then, pause to consider a very different explanation for the origin of this magnificent creature.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth…” Isaiah 40:28 NIV

My mom told me a story when I was a young girl that has stuck with me all my life. I do not remember the little details, but I will try to retell it here. There was a guy working in his garage. He was a Christian and believed in a Creator God. His neighbor, an atheist, stopped by perhaps to chat, perhaps to borrow a tool. The neighbor commented on the man’s watch and asked where he got it. The man said “oh, this old thing. Strangest thing…I had a coffee can full of nuts and bolts. It was handed down to me from my father and was his father’s father. Occasionally I will rummage through it try to find something I can use, but mostly it has sat up there on that shelf for decades. Just the other day I was cleaning up in here and I accidentally knocked the can off the shelf. To my amazement, the nuts, bolts and springs had become a watch, this watch you see here.” The neighbor looked at him like he had lost his mind. The neighbor said “that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. That is impossible!” The man replied, “is it any less ridiculous that humans, with all of our intricate detail, were created by accident?”

If something is created, it must have a creator. There is too much proof now for anyone to be misled in this arena. DNA mapping for starters.

My late husband used to say, “If man evolved from apes, why do we still have apes?” Such a simple question but so very thought provoking.

Not one fossil link showing that man descended from apes has been found. In fact, according to a reputable eyewitness account, Charles Darwin, on his deathbed, recanted his theory of evolution and accepted Christ as his savior. The American Baptist newspaper, the “Watchman Examiner”, first reported the story in 1915, thirty-three years after Darwin’s death.

“And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.” Genesis 1:20-23 ESV

Jesus is our Creator. We owe our very existence to Him and everything around us we owe to Him. Thank Him.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” John 1:1-3 ESV

It could be said this way: at the beginning of earth’s history was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God. Jesus was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Jesus, and without Jesus nothing was made.

How do we know Jesus is the Word?

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 ESV

Jesus: Creator, Savior, Friend, brother, Son of Abba.

One last thing. I have mentioned this before, but it is still so new to me that I want to point it out again. Three or four months ago, I was reading my Bible and it just popped off the page at me. We know that Jesus formed man from the dust of the earth. We know that He formed woman using one of man’s ribs. We thought everything else was spoken into existence, except let’s look at Genesis 2:19.

“Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air…” Genesis 2:19 NKJV

Jesus also formed the animals and the birds from the dirt of the earth. Amazing! Can you just see Him, like a potter, forming and molding and then giving life to the form? It is a beautiful, intimate picture of our Creator God.

Next time you hear a bird singing, or see one in flight, think of creation week and what amazing information Jesus programmed into each created living thing.

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