“To give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remissions of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the Dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
The Dayspring from on High!
Whoever He may be, He came to dispel the gloomy darkness of death.
Oh yes, when Jesus came it was night. Also that is divinely ordained. Jesus must be born in the depth of night in Bethlehem. That is in keeping with the state and condition of those whom He would visit.
And what a night!
There was deep darkness in Zion.
Darkness is absence of the light, and spiritually it is absence of all goodness and virtue. And it is also presence of all evil and wickedness.
Darkness is utter impotence to see, to walk and to live.
And by Divine decree: those that walk in darkness shall not have the light of life.
And the objects of this wonderful song of Zacharias are those that “sit” in darkness and in the land of the shadow of death. The picture is horribly complete.
A horribly complete picture, for that word “death” tells us the terrible quality of the darkness and the gloom that surrounds them.
Darkness of death! It is the folly of the natural mind, the crookedness of unrighteous souls, and the corruption of the entire nature of man. It is the very opposite of the beauteous image of God which adorned us originally.
Such is the night of Bethlehem.
Oh, let us not gloss over this awful fact. If you do, you will never be able to sing the Christmas carols of the heavenly host of angels. Exactly in the measure that you see the gloom of the night of sin and guilt, do you see also the glittering and the shining Light of the Dayspring from on High.
The song of Zacharias is about those people that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death!
But attend to the name which he gives to them, a name that spells singing and rejoicing, the jubilant cry and the God-given anthem of praise.
What is it? It is the name “His people”!
That possessive pronoun means infinitely more than mere possession. Does not God possess everything and everyone, be he wicked or good, be he elect or reprobate?
They are His people because He loved them from all eternity. It is a possessive pronoun indeed, but it tells us of the relation of loving possession. It tells of a love that never knew a beginning. As old as Jehovah is, so old is the love which sends you your Christmas, and your Christmas-Child, and your Christmas joy! You are His people, and it is for that reason that the Dayspring from on High will visit you again and again.
And that Dayspring, whoever we mean, will visit you because you became a sinner in time, and since He loves you eternally, He loves you even when you were sinners, and sat in the darkness of the shadow of death.
You dare not speak any different on that glorious day when you remember the song of the angels. One of the most important of the heavenly host has told it to Mary: “for He shall save His people from their sin!” And the host of angels sang of the “men of God’s good pleasure.”
It is because the “people” are so blessed that we commemorate the days of advent and the Christmas day.
Look, if you can, into the Face of that Dayspring!
I say: if you can, for it is tantamount with looking into the golden luster of Divine mercy! The Son of God comes with the glory of God’s unspeakable pity and commiseration.
Let us look at that Dayspring!
Yes, it is imagery. It is the sun in his rising. The Dayspring from on High is the sun when it appears at the horizon and sheds its golden luster, prophesying of a day when all shall be bathed in light, light, glorious light, all the Day of Eternity! I would shout it from the housetops: There shall be no night there! And why not? Because it is the place where the Dayspring has run His course. Eternally He shall stand and shine at the zenith of the heavenly heaven of God.
Oh yes, it is Jesus Christ the Lord.
You knew it all along. You have heard of Him so much and so often. When you could scarcely speak, they told you of that Christ-Child. It was the theme of the whole life of your forebears, of your progenitors, your teachers, your pastors, your friends, your whole world of thought, expression and action. Oh yes, we knew it! The Dayspring from on High is the blessed Son of God who comes to us with healing in His wings. Shall we then not make merry on Christmas eve? If we did not, the very stones and the rocks would organize their Christmas programs.
And we will continue to look into the golden luster of Divine mercy, for that is Jesus Christ.
It is in the text: look at it! Through the tender mercy of our God!
Mercy! Divine compassion! It is God, tenderly commiserating with the miserable object of which we spoke above. Mercy always has to do with misery.
Jesus is the Mercy of Triune God! And this mercy has visited us. God came to you “on company.”
He did so, long, long ago.
First, in the Word of Promise in the First Paradise. Oh, that seed of the woman! Well, here she is: the final woman: Mary the mother of Jesus.
The “people,” His people, clung to that promise throughout all the ages with their attending death and darkness. They loved to bring forth children, and they hoped for the redemption of Israel.
Second, He came in the humble city of Bethlehem. There is the Dayspring from on High. Careful, do not stumble here in this smelly barn. Come, do not be afraid, come closer if you want to see the “golden luster” of a Sun that shall shine unto all eternity! Oh yes, you are right: He lies in the sour-smelling manger, the place where beasts of the field slaver and munch and eat their fodder. Oh yes, you are right. There is no mistake.
All this misery, this poverty, this degradation is a picture of the darkness of the shadow of your and my death?
But it is also the visiting of that Dayspring. It is the eternal mercy of your and my God, blessed forever!
He visited me.
And He proved His mercy in His coming. The dirty stable, the animals, the sour-smelling manger, the swaddling clothes, the poverty-stricken and forsaken mother and “father” are so many proofs that He came in order to shine on me, and to continue to shine on me, until all my darkness is gone and I do not have to spend my eternity in the outer darkness of hell. He went there for me.
Such is the Light of the Dayspring that visited you and me.
In accents sweet it is a song of mercy of God. He was moved with our misery and absorbed it. Yes, that is the right word. It is absorbed. In all my afflictions He was afflicted. Carry over this cipher and carry it over and over again, unto all eternity, for He bore our eternal sorrows. Reason why His name is also Man of Sorrows.
Shall we then not sing on Christmas eve?
We shall sing and we shall teach the little ones to sing until the sun and the moon shall shine no more.
And then He shall continue to shine.
Oh yes, shine on Christ of God, Sun of righteousness, Golden luster, Bearer of Divine mercy of Thy God!
And the result?
Has Christmas a fruit?
Zacharias shall sing also of that.
Listen to him: To give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of sins . . . to guide our feet into the way of peace!
To give knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins! Who is there among you who has not tortured himself with the thought of his or her terrible sins? Do you remember the nights when sleep fled and slumber vanished from your tearstained eyes? Do you remember the nights when you uttered unheard groanings, shed “dry” tears, gave vent to sighing and murmuring?
Man! No matter who you are: do you know your sins and misery?
And have you learned to bewail them before the Face of Him who KNOWS ALL AND EVERY SIN YOU COMMITTED! A good question to begin your festivities when the days of advent are over and when the ADVENT-ED ONE came!
Well then: this is the Gospel of Christmas. This is the result of the shining Dayspring from on High: He took all your sins away, never to return. There ix remission of sins.
It means that when you appear before the Judgment Seat, you shall hear Jesus say to God: I will not that this one and that one and all the others there and here, descend into the pit: I HAVE FOUND A RANSOM!
Remission of sin means that when finally you will see the glorious Face of God, that this Face will be wreathed in smiles of good pleasure in you, and you, and you!
He will be silent in His love regarding all your sin, and He shall be voluble in His words of welcome on that first day in heaven. At the door you will hear Him say: Welcome home, my son, my daughter! Your sins are forever gone. Come in and enter into the joy of your Lord!
Because of Christmas!
And that knowledge He gives. And that knowledge we embrace.
And though we smile in that knowledge through our tears of suffering, here in the midst of devils and wicked men, we smile nevertheless, for Jesus gave us the knowledge of salvation by the remission of our grievous sins.
But there is more: to guide our feet into the way of peace!
Peace is the harmony between your heart and the heart of God. When His heartbeat and yours beat in unison, and you know that, then you taste peace. In a figure: when you sing a song with God and when your voices merge and you sing as one. Then you have peace.
The way to that peace is the Christ-Child.
His name is the Prince of Peace.
And He has made peace through His heart’s blood.
He is the great Peace-maker.
And Christmas tells me that He takes your hand and leads you on the way of peace to the place where your peace will eternally flow like a river!
Blessed night when Jesus was born!