I quote from ye olde King James Version because of that phrase “dayspring from on high.” The NRSV (modern) version has “the dawn from on high,” but that sounds too familiar: like a sunrise, the beginning of one more day exactly like yesterday. When I hear the word “dayspring” I think “what’s that?” And “dayspring from on high?” It’s not part of my everyday experience. It’s an unfamiliar light that illuminates our world in a new way.
We begin our new liturgical year with Luke’s gospel, and on December 9 we’ll sing this passage from the song Zechariah sings. It’s about his son, John the Baptist, but also a new day of God’s power breaking in on the old world of foreign occupation, oppression and exile. “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who has looked favorably on her / his people and redeemed them.”
A new light, new day: that sounds good when it feels like life is giving us too much “more of the same;” when December and January feel like a hamster wheel – rush from one thing to the next, repeat; when we’re sick of the news, disasters, shootings, persistent racism and corruption.
We’ve lived through many Advents and Christmases before, and part of what we like about it is how familiar it all is. But on the first Sunday of Advent we always hear Jesus encourage us to be watchful, alert for some new presence, insight, reason for hope. God’s invasion of our world in Jesus is something so wonderful, we’ll never get used to it.
I like how in the Eric Gill woodcut on this page, you can tell the stable is being flooded with light, but what kind of light is it? Sunlight? Starlight? Zechariah sings about a dayspring that comes from on high. It’s light from God. It shines in the darkest places, where people are truly stuck. God’s coming challenges our numbness and sense of resignation. And it doesn’t leave us where we are. The purpose of God’s new light and new day is to open up a path and to guide us in each step we take, into peace.
by Pastor Bernt