This is the fifth in an Advent sermon series on “The Seven Great ‘O’ Antiphons.”
“O Dayspring, Come” (Malachi 4:1-6; Luke 1:67-79; Revelation 22:16-20)
The fifth of the seven O Antiphons is our theme for today, “O Dayspring, Come.” You see it there in your hymnal, as well as in your bulletin. Let’s begin by praying this antiphon together: “O Dayspring, splendor of light everlasting: Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
The term “Dayspring” is not a word you hear every day. But you are hearing it on this day. We just sang, “O come, Thou Dayspring from on high.” And it comes up in stanzas in two other of our hymns today: “Ah! Thou Dayspring from on high,” we sang earlier; and “Dayspring from on high, be near,” we’ll sing later on. But that’s about it, as far as the exact term is concerned. You don’t even find “Dayspring” in any of our readings today.
Ah, but then again, you do! In our Gospel reading, toward the end, where it says, “whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high,” in another translation it reads, “whereby the dayspring from on high.” Both are translating the same word, with the same meaning; one just says “dayspring”; the other says “sunrise.”
And that’s the sense. “Dayspring” simply means “sunrise,” or “the rising sun,” “the sun rising in the east,” that sort of thing. And so you do see the idea of “Dayspring” running throughout our hymns and readings today, in many places. For example, in the reading from Malachi, it says, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.” There “the sun of righteousness” equals “dayspring.” Or in the Book of Revelation, where Jesus says, “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star,” “bright morning star” is saying the same thing as “dayspring.”
So this is a thoroughly biblical concept, to apply the term to Jesus, and thus the origin of our antiphon, “O Dayspring, come.” And these readings will tell us how it applies, and what Christ being the “dayspring” means for us.
We begin with the Malachi reading. The prophet says that “the day is coming”: “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” This is a prophecy of the Day of Judgment that is coming on the earth. And it will come. And you and I would be consumed in that fiery blaze of judgment, for you and I are sinners, doomed to die with all the rest of this wicked world. On our own, we would fall under the same sentence.
But Malachi foresees something else, as well. He says, “But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” The sun of righteousness is coming! A new day is about to dawn! And with it comes not judgment but healing! This is good news! When that rising sun arrives, we who trust in the Lord will bound forth, whole and hearty and full of energy, like young calves leaping from the stall. That’s what the Dayspring will bring.
Now in this prophecy, Malachi also says that before that great and awesome day comes, the Lord will send a forerunner to make ready the way before him. And those are really the last words we have in the Old Testament, written about 400 years before Christ. Then when the New Testament events open, the first thing we read about is the birth of John the Baptist precisely to fulfill that Malachi prophecy.
And so in our text from Luke 1, John’s father, Zechariah, poetically addresses his newborn son and says, “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.” OK, so John’s mission in life will be to be that forerunner of the Lord. And what will that involve? Zechariah’s song continues: “to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God.” Dear friends, what beautiful gospel this is! This is what John the Baptist did, by pointing people to Christ! “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” That was John’s message. That was John’s mission. To bear witness to the true light that was coming into the world. For that’s who Jesus is.
And so Zechariah concludes, “whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Here is the Dayspring passage, the “Dayspring from on high” visiting us to give us light. You and I were sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, and then Christ came, the Dayspring arose, and now a new day has dawned.
No longer do we sit, swallowed up in darkness, paralyzed, unable to move, cowering in fear, sitting in the long, dark shadow of death. That’s no way to live. Instead, now that the Dayspring has arisen, we can get up and walk, walk about in freedom, moving forward on the pathway to peace. The Dayspring from on high sheds his light on our path, so now we can see, and he guides our feet into the way of peace.
Christ the Dayspring would accomplish this, ironically enough, on the darkest day of his life, that Good Friday when darkness covered the land. That’s when the light was shining the brightest. The way of peace was established for us that day, when Christ made peace between God and man in his body on the cross. The sun in the sky was blotted out, even as the sun of righteousness was making peace for us, dying in our place, being righteousness for us, by bearing our sins in his own body.
“Whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” It’s the dawning of a new day, a day of light and life. And so it was at dawn on the first day of the week, that Christ arose from the grave, shining forth as the source of everlasting life and light.
And this Dayspring from on high is coming again, to bring it all to fruition. There is where we find Jesus at the very end of the Bible, Revelation 22, once again being our Dayspring. “I, Jesus,” he declares, “I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” And he assures us, “Surely I am coming soon.”
The new day is on its way! Jesus is coming soon! The bright morning star, our Dayspring, is about to rise once again. Salvation is coming. Our Savior is coming, coming to rescue us from the last vestiges of darkness and death.
It’s like we’re in the pre-dawn. It’s still dark outside, but we can see the first glow of the new day peeking over the horizon. We know that very soon the full light of day will be here. That’s what life is like in this in-between age between the darkness and the dawn.
And so Christ our Dayspring gives us hope. When you know the long dark night is about to end, you begin to get excited about the dawning of a new and more glorious day. And there’s enough light shining even now to give us light, to give us sight, so we can see where we’re going, as we walk ahead on this path the good Lord has placed us on. Right now our eyes are getting adjusted to walking in the light. We’ve been sitting in the darkness for a long time, but now the light is dawning on our world. With light comes sight, and the vision of the new reality that is dawning for us in Christ–it is glorious!
The night will soon be ending;
The dawn cannot be far.
Let songs of praise ascending
Now greet the Morning Star!
All you whom darkness frightens
With guilt or grief or pain,
God’s radiant Star now brightens
And bids you sing again.
“O Dayspring, come.” Are there dark corners in your life? Places where you still are sitting in the darkness of sin and confusion and lack of direction? Is the fear and the reality of death casting its shadow over your days? Let there be light! Fellow pilgrims on the path of life, that is why our O Antiphon today is such a good prayer for us to pray: “O Dayspring, splendor of light everlasting: Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”