The spirit of Christmas needs to be superseded by the Spirit of Christ. The spirit of Christmas is annual; the Spirit of Christ is eternal. The spirit of Christmas is sentimental; the Spirit of Christ is supernatural. The spirit of Christmas is a human product; the Spirit of Christ is a divine person. That makes all the difference in the world. -Stuart Briscoe
Today on this Christmas Sunday, we enjoy the spirit of Christmas. We enjoy the lights, the music, the food and the family gathering. But much more than all of that, we enjoy Christ.
This morning we are going to consider a picture given to us of the nature of Jesus. It comes in the prophecy of Zachariah in Luke chapter 1.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us[h] from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
The King James version used a word in verse 78 that has fallen out of common use, but should not have.
Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, (KJV)
Jesus is the dayspring from on high. Dayspring translates a Greek word which can mean East or rising and was used to describe the sun rising at dawn.
Jesus is the great dawn from heaven, rising over the inhabits of earth.
In reflecting on a dayspring, or dawn, I think of 4 qualities.
First, a dayspring brings the end of darkness.
In darkness, the world loses its color, its shapes and its distinctions. In darkness our fears multiply and our sorrows weigh heaviest. Those who walk in darkness cannot see the paths before them.
As long as humans have walked the earth, we have loved the dawn. Dawn chases away the darkness. It brings back the color and shape of the world. It chases away our fears and warms the lonely sorrow in our hearts.
The sun brings with it knowledge and illumination. Jesus brought with him priceless knowledge. His light shows us the world around us for what it truly is. His light shows us what is in our hearts – the reality of sin and then reveals the path to forgiveness and mercy. His light draws the lonely into fellowship in his inviting presence.
Second, a dayspring comes to all people everywhere.
The sun knows no distinctions. It does not discriminate. Today the sun rises over Russian and over Ukraine. Today the wealthy executive and the impoverished laborer will feel the sun’s rays on their faces.
Jesus is the true light that gives light to everyone. (John 1:9) That one word, everyone, is a glorious word.
The whole world has benefited from the visit of the rising sun – the example of his life and his teachings have risen over the horizon of civilization bringing the warmth of compassion and the light of justice, bringing the institutions of hospitals, hospices and universities.
The great ethical standards of the sermon on the mount, the simple but radical golden rule. The revolutionary call to forgive the enemy and pray for the persecutor.
The whole world enjoys and unknowingly walks in the light cast over the centuries by this one man.
The dawn of Christ brought light to the unwanted newborns tossed into the rivers of Rome, he brought light to the widows without dignity or support in an indifferent world, he brought light to the plague ridden cities visited by the children of light who brought healing comfort into dark places no one else would dare set foot. He brought light to the poor, the refugee, the outcast and the broken, his light shines on the slave and the prisoner.
Third, the dayspring grows ever brighter.
Those who have camped outdoors in the winter months know what it is to endure a long, cold night. The sliver of light that appears on the horizon in the early hours brings a psychological warmth and the promise of comforting warmth. But that warming is not instantaneous. The sun will work its steady way up from the horizon, gradually spreading its benefits through the air.
The individual relationship with Christ is like the first gleam of dawn, growing ever brighter til the full light of day. We hear the gospel, we believe we have learned something of Jesus and we love him and become his followers. As we try to apply his teachings, loving those who are difficult to love, forgiving our brother for the 7th time we learn how difficult and how transcendent are his ways.
We encounter suffering and hardship that brings us to the end of ourselves and we learn that what we knew conceptually is a true reality to be experienced and we learn him all over again.
We have read the Bible for perhaps decades and suddenly a flash of revelation opens our eyes to a quality in Jesus we have never truly seen before.
In this Christian life, the revelation and experience of Jesus is like the sunrise which only grows brighter.
The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
Finally, the dayspring is the only source of true light.
A candle, a flashlight, a campfire – these all have their benefits. But they are not the sun.
The world is full of derivative lights. But they are not the Dayspring.
The lights and sounds and tastes of the Christmas season are wonderful lights, transforming our world for a season. They bring joy and have power to lift us out of the monotony of our circumstances.
But that power is a weak and limited power.
There are nights that are too dark for the holiday spirit to pierce. There are sorrows to heavy for the seasonal celebration to lift.
But no night is to dark, no sorrow is too heavy for the dayspring on high.
“I am abashed, solitary, helpless, surrounded by a beauty that can never belong to me. But this sadness generates within me an unspeakable reverence for the holiness of created things, for they are pure and perfect and they belong to God and they are mirrors of his beauty. He is mirrored in all things like sunlight in a clean water: But if I try to drink the light that is in the water I only shatter the reflection.” -Thomas Merton
The great dawn of heaven first appeared wearing diapers in a feeding trough in a little town out in the country. He grew and his light began to radiate through is words and his deeds. For a brief moment his light seemed to be extinguished on the cross, but the shadow of death was no match for the dayspring from on high. The light broke through the veil of death, having vanquished our sins and our sorrows.
Today we enjoy the spirit of Christmas, but we fall on our knees in gratitude and worship before the Dayspring Rising.
In my home we greet the rising sun by opening wide every curtain, making way for the rays shining down into our home.
Friend, is the home of your heart open to the light of Christ today? Is there any room left darkened by the curtains of sin, fear or sorrow.
Throw those curtains aside and let the light of Christ fill every room in your heart.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown