Christmas Day Sermon, 2012
Stuart W. Bryan
This last Sunday we looked at Zacharias’ song of praise, the Benedictus. There Zacharias speaks of Jesus in a very unusual way – he speaks of him as the Dayspring from on High. What is the meaning of Zacharias’ title?
Calling Jesus the Dayspring from on high is equivalent to comparing him to the rising of the sun – a poetic way of referring to dawn. The arrival of the Messiah, Zacharias is telling us, is like the rising of the Sun, bringing light and warmth and life to the world.
Zacharias’ title for Jesus is not surprising. Throughout the OT the prophets anticipated the arrival of the Messiah with the language of light. Isaiah spoke of his coming like this:
“The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2)
““I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles,” (Isaiah 42:6)
“Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”” (Isaiah 49:6)
“The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.” (Isaiah 60:3)
So why this image of light? Because prior to Jesus’ arrival, the world was a dark place. The world was dark – blackened by idolatry; held in thrall to demons and false gods. The world was dark – clouded by sin and deceit; hiding from the light of God’s truth, hating goodness even while being drawn toward it. The world was dark – trapped in ignorance and folly, denying the very God who molded and fashioned the world.
But Jesus came to introduce light to the world. He came to rescue us from the darkness of idolatry; to deliver us from the darkness of sin; to free us from the darkness of ignorance. Jesus is the light and in him is no darkness at all. And He came to shine His light on the nations of earth and to reverse the darkness that entered the world as a result of our rebellion against God.
You see there’s a reason our fathers selected December 25th as the day to celebrate Christmas – and it had very little to do with actually calculating the day he was born. Instead it had everything to do with light. In the Roman calendar, December 25th was the shortest day of the year, the darkest day of the year; and following the 25th the light increases, the days get longer. This is the meaning of the Incarnation; this is the meaning of Christmas: light has come into the world; the Dayspring on high has visited us.
And because Jesus is the light, He brings joy and gladness in his wake. We needn’t cower in fear – the darkness has flown away. So listen to Malachi’s vision of the Sun of Righteousness, our Lord Jesus Christ: “For you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in his wings, and you shall break loose like calves released from the stall.”
Brothers and sisters, the Sun of Righteousness has arisen; we have been forgiven; the light has dawned. So let us act accordingly. Let us rejoice and be glad; let us celebrate and give thanks. For God has been good to us.