O Come, Thou Dayspring From On High
O Come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death’s dark shadow put to flight.
O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae,
et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.
O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.
LSB ”O Antiphons” under Hymn 357 and in Treasury of Daily Prayer p. 1039:
O Dayspring, splendor of light
ever- | lasting: *
Come and enlighten those who
sit in darkness and in the shad- | ow
Oriens means “Dayspring” or “Morning Star” or “Sunrise.” This title for Christ is found throughout Scripture. The purpose of this title is point out that Christ is the light of the world, that His gift of salvation is like the dawn of a new day after a dark night of terror. The theme of the O Antiphons builds again. Here in Oriens the Creator of light on the first day. He is the Creator of the Sun, Moon, and Stars on the fourth day (Wednesday); which He appointed not only to give light to the world, but to be for signs and to mark seasons. He is the Greater Light that has come into this world.
The theme builds from creation, to the Promise to Abraham, to the Incarnation, to Transfiguration, to the Resurrection of Christ, and to the Throne of Christ in His Kingdom of Glory.
Study on O Oriens
In the beginning the world was shapeless and empty. It could do nothing for itself. “Darkness was on the face of the deep.” The Word of God declared “Let there be light.” Light came into existence by the authority of that Divine Word. Creation cannot make itself, or form itself. O Oriens is a confession that there is no process of “self emergence” or “self-organization.” (Genesis 1) And just as the world did not make or form itself, so the sinner sitting in the darkness and alienation from God cannot self-emerge or come to faith and salvation by his or her own power.
The faithful Witness, John, demonstrated how these themes are tied together in the opening words of his Gospel:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14)
God used light and the lights of creation as symbols of kings, nations, and especially of His Son as the Redeemer of the world. Zacharias sang of this at the birth of his son, John:
76 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,
78 Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
God tied together the Promise faith in the Onlybegotten Son with the symbol of the Stars in His covenant with Abraham:
1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”
2 But Abram said, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 Then Abram said, “Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!”
4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” 5 Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.”
6 And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.
God vividly demonstrated the way in which His Onlybegotten Son would be the Substitute for sinners when He called upon Abraham to offer as a sacrifice his only son begotten of God’s Promise. Again, the stars are used as a symbol. And in this particular event God focused upon One of those Stars.
15 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
There was a famine in the land, besides the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, in Gerar.
2 Then the Lord appeared to him and said: “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you. 3 Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. 4 And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; 5 because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.”
Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. (Galatians 3:16)
The Promise was repeated by Moses to God at the time Aaron led the people into idolatry. And it was on the basis of this Promise that the Lord relented from destroying the idolatrous church at that time.
13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people. (Exodus 32:13-14)
Balaam son of Beor (a non-Israelite) was hired as a prophet by Balak to curse God’s people. God used Balaam to proclaim this same Promise, focusing on the symbolism of the Star:
12 So Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not also speak to your messengers whom you sent to me, saying, 13 ‘If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the Lord, to do good or bad of my own will. What the Lord says, that I must speak’? 14 And now, indeed, I am going to my people. Come, I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the latter days.”
15 So he took up his oracle and said:
“The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor,
And the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened;
16 The utterance of him who hears the words of God,
And has the knowledge of the Most High,
Who sees the vision of the Almighty,
Who falls down, with eyes wide open:
17 “I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel,
And batter the brow of Moab,
And destroy all the sons of tumult.
18 “And Edom shall be a possession;
Seir also, his enemies, shall be a possession,
While Israel does valiantly.
19 Out of Jacob One shall have dominion,
And destroy the remains of the city.”
The star would literally appear, Christ would come. A miraculous star would appear and guide the gentile wise men to Bethlehem to worship the Son who was born the King of the Jews.
As Moses prepared to die outside the promised land, he referred to the coming of the Lord at Sinai (the second antiphon: O Adonai) as the coming of dawn.
Now this is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. 2 And he said:
“The Lord came from Sinai,
And dawned on them from Seir;
He shone forth from Mount Paran,
And He came with ten thousands of saints;
From His right hand
Came a fiery law for them.
3 Yes, He loves the people;
All His saints are in Your hand;
They sit down at Your feet;
Everyone receives Your words.
The theme of God’s help being just at the sunrise/Daybreak is at the heart of the song of salvation in Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
3 Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
4 There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.
6 The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
God uses the image of the Dawning Sun to portray the coming of His Son, the Son of David, the Messiah, specifying where He would dwell:
Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed,
As when at first He lightly esteemed
The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
And afterward more heavily oppressed her,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
In Galilee of the Gentiles.
2 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.
3 You have multiplied the nation
And increased its joy;
They rejoice before You
According to the joy of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil.
4 For You have broken the yoke of his burden
And the staff of his shoulder,
The rod of his oppressor,
As in the day of Midian.
5 For every warrior’s sandal from the noisy battle,
And garments rolled in blood,
Will be used for burning and fuel of fire.
6 For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
God spoke of the second covenant to replace the covenant at Sinai. A covenant based in repentance and the forgiveness of sins. He places Light, Healing, Righteousness all in parallel with “the Glory of the Lord” so that the Savior is Light, Healing, and Righteousness. The Savior is the Lord. And even here the Savior dwells with us to hear our prayer:
6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then your Light shall break forth like the morning,
Your Healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your Righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
And then come the familiar words of this Messianic prophecy:
1 Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.
2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the Lord will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you.
3 The Gentiles shall come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.
18 Violence shall no longer be heard in your land,
Neither wasting nor destruction within your borders;
But you shall call your walls Salvation,
And your gates Praise.
19 “The sun shall no longer be your light by day,
Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you;
But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light,
And your God your glory.
20 Your sun shall no longer go down,
Nor shall your moon withdraw itself;
For the Lord will be your everlasting light,
And the days of your mourning shall be ended.
21 Also your people shall all be righteous;
They shall inherit the land forever,
The branch of My planting,
The work of My hands,
That I may be glorified.
From the first pages of the Old Testament to the last chapter of the Old Testament O Oriens is a main them describing the person of, the coming of, and work of the Messiah for our Salvation:
2 But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings;
And you shall go out
And grow fat like stall-fed calves.
3 You shall trample the wicked,
For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet
On the day that I do this,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
The Light came into the world. God used this Promise of Light, the stars, and the dawn written in His Word as a constant reminder of what He would do when He brought His Son into this world to be with us. God manifested light at the birth of His Son, a bright and vivid reminder of the Promise throughout the Old Testament:
He manifested the Light of His Glory at Christ’s birth as recorded in Luke 2:
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
He manifested the Light of a supernaturally appointed star at Christ’s birth as recorded in Matthew 2:
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
6 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.
Today unbelievers claim that Jesus was a “light” meaning that He should be thought of only as a brilliant teacher of good things. But the Word of Jesus testimony bears out that He confessed He is the Creator the Light of the Creation when the Pharisees confronted Him (John 8):
12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
This particular debate reached its climax with the following statements of Christ and the response of the Pharisees:
48 Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”
49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. 50 And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges. 51 Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”
52 Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ 53 Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?”
54 Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. 55 Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”
57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”
58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
59 Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
He manifested His authority over death at the dawn of the first day of the week. The day that light was created the Light of the World walked forth from the tomb conquering death itself.
Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door,and sat on it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. 4 And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.
5 But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”
8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.
Indeed, the language and confession contained in O Oriens is so common throughout both Old and New Testaments that we often overlook it because of its familiarity. Paul wrote of the Light of Christ as the Dawn of the New Covenant of forgiveness, for example:
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says:
“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”
Sometimes translation into English may obscure the reference to Christ Shining Forth as the Light of Dawn
3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared (επεφανη literally “shined forth”), 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Notice the consistent use of this symbolism of light with reference to the Son of God Incarnate throughout the whole of Scripture:
1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
And so we return to the fact that these references to Christ as Light, Star, and Dawn are all there to show us who He Is, and to confirm the written Promise made to our first parents that the lies and death Satan worked are defeated in Christ who is “God With Us” Emmanuel.
2 Peter 2
16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
The Letter to Thyatira contains a quotation from Psalm 2:9 and Jesus referring to Himself as fulfillment of that Promise and as the Morning Star:
27 ‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron;
They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’—
as I also have received from My Father; 28 and I will give him the Morning Star.
29 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
Jesus words in the closing chapters of the Bible give us the words of Promise that form our prayer “O Oriens Veni O Dayspring, Come!” Here is where the Light never fades, Jerusalem the Golden, the eternal Reward of those who have their robes washed in the blood of the Lamb. In that eternal City there is no darkness:
23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. 24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. 25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). 26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. 27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.
O Lord Jesus Christ, You are the shining forth of Your Father’s glory, God of God, Light of Light:
You came in the incarnation to our poor darkened world as the Sun of Righteousness bringing healing in Your beams, dispelling the gloom of Satan, Sin and Death, and gladdening men’s hearts with the good news of their Father’s kindness and love for man:
Come, we pray You, now by Your grace, and through Your Church let Your truth and love shine forth to all who are in the darkness of sin or ignorance or error; penetrate the hidden recesses of our hearts, and enlighten the cruel habitations of the earth.
The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns
The King shall come when morning dawns
And light triumphant breaks,
When beauty gilds the eastern hills
And life to joy awakes.
Not as of old a little child,
To bear and fight and die,
But crowned with glory like the sun
That lights the morning sky.
Oh, brighter than the rising morn
When Christ, victorious, rose
And left the lonesome place of death
Despite the rage of foes.
Oh, brighter than that glorious morn
Shall dawn upon our race
The day when Christ in splendor comes
And we shall see his face.
The King shall come when morning dawns
And light and beauty brings.
Hail, Christ the Lord! Your people pray:
Come quickly, King of kings.
Hymn # 26 from Lutheran Worship
Author: John Brownlie – 1859- 1925
Composer: John Wyeth
1st Published in: 1813
Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning
1. Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid;
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.
2. Cold on His cradle the dewdrops are shining;
Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall.
Angels adore Him in slumber reclining,
Maker and Monarch and Savior of all.
3. Shall we not yield Him, In costly devotion
Odors of Edom and offerings divine,
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest and gold from the mine?
4. Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gifts would His favor secure.
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration;
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.
5. Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid;
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Matt. 2:11
Author: Reginald Heber, 1811
Composer: John P. Harding, 1892
Tune: “Morning Star”