Good Friday morning ...
Now in my sixth year of retirement, I am not preaching anywhere this Christmas ... but if I were, I might title my sermon Sunrise in Bethlehem and base it on a little-preached-upon verse from Luke, chapter one. The ancient, but poetic King James Version (always my preference for Christmas preaching) translates Luke 1:78 in this way: THE DAYSPRING FROM ON HIGH HAS VISITED US.
A check in the dictionary tells me that "dayspring" is a synonym for "dawn" or "sunrise." It means the break of day, that moment when the first rays of the sun appear on the eastern horizon.
If you have done any camping, if you have been outside all night long, if you have been caught in the darkness for a long period, you know how long those last few hours can be. At 3:00AM it seems as if morning will NEVER come. It feels the same at 3:30AM and 4:00AM and 4:30AM. But when 5:00AM comes, you know that if you wait just a little longer ... the sun will finally peek over the edge of the earth and little shafts of light will pierce the darkness.
That's what the coming of Christ, the birth of Jesus, the incarnation of God in the flesh into our world is all about. He is the "dayspring" who brings the light into a darkened place, into our sinful world.
The full verse reads this way: "The rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace." [Luke 1:78 NIV]
The verse tells it like it is.
We live in darkness, in sin, in a disjointed, distorted, disbelieving world. And there is nothing we can do to contribute to our deliverance from this darkness. Into this darkness comes the Savior with the message that He is the Light of the world and that if God doesn't save us, we will never be saved.
I have read that near the North Pole where the night lasts for months and months, when the people expect that day is about to dawn, a few go up to the highest point to watch. When they see the first streak of dawn, they put on the brightest clothing they can find and embrace each other crying, "Behold the sun!" and the cry then spreads through the land. "Behold the sun!"
On the very first Christmas morning the sun began to shine in Bethlehem. And from that sunrise, the Light still shines 2020 years later. The Light from the manger has encircled the world, setting free those who sat in darkness and giving hope to those who could not find their way home.
"Behold the sun!"
BEHOLD THE SON!
Christmas is only a few days away. It's not about candy canes and stockings by the chimney or holiday decorations and Santa Claus. Not about reindeer, snowy scenes and presents under a tree. Not about being naughty or nice throughout the year or keeping a list.
Christmas is about the absolute truth that God visited His people. We celebrate His visit at Christmas. Will you drop everything for a while to welcome Him? Or are you going to be too busy?
Christmas is about the Light of heaven coming to earth. Will you open your eyes to see it? Or will you be distracted by many things?
Christmas is about the Light of the world born as a Babe in Bethlehem. Will you let Him lighten your life? Or will you let the darkness cover you?
The familiar words of Phillips Brooks come to mind:
How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.
May that be your experience this Christmas ...
THE DAYSPRING FROM ON HIGH HAS VISITED US [Luke 1:78]
Grace Lutheran Church - LCMS
Grace Lutheran 12200 McCormick Rd
Jacksonville, Florida 32225