25th December 2012

The Dayspring

“The rising sun will come to us from heaven.”
Luke 1:78 (NIV UK)

Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, proclaimed a rich prophecy concerning the coming Messiah. He refers to the long-promised Messiah as “the dayspring” (KJV) or “the rising sun” (NIV).

The Greek word translated here is anatole, and is used in two ways. Firstly, it is the rising light of the sun and of the stars, and also means “from the east”, since the sunrise is in the east. Secondly, anatole is a “shoot” or “branch”: it was used this way in the Septuagint (the Old Testament in Greek) to convey “branch” in Jeremiah 23:5 and in Zechariah 3:8, 6:12.

Thus Luke 1:78 could be translated “the branch from on high,” a reference to Isaiah 4:2, “the Branch of the Lord.” The translators, however, chose “dayspring” (KJV) and “rising sun” (NIV) because verse 79 contains the imagery of light coming into darkness, just as the dawn chases away the darkness of night. The translators were likely correct in this choice, though the idea of “the branch” is lurking in there too. It appears that Luke uses anatole as a play on both meanings of the word—celebrating the Messiah as both humanity’s new branch and new day.

Christmas proclaims that God is the light of his people from all eternity. When, in the fullness of time, Jesus came, it was to fulfil all the messianic prophecies concerning him. With Jesus’ first coming, the eternal morning dawned. In this we find great hope for it brings with it the promise that ultimately all wrongs will be righted and all tears wiped away. Thus Jesus’ first coming carries with it the promise of his second.

Christmas is a joyous celebration of his love, his faithfulness, and the promise of the fullness of his kingdom at his second coming. Because of his birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension, the love of God dwells not just among us but also, by his Spirit, in us so that we may love one another with his love in the same Spirit.

Christmas is about the light and the love of God being sent to us in a most personal way—in the incarnate person of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. I pray that as you and yours celebrate Christmas with this fullness of meaning, you will find the joy, hope and comfort that come through our Lord’s presence.

Great, loving and compassionate Father, thank you that, through your Spirit, you sent your Son to us, and that in in him we have the promise of eternal life with you. In Jesus’ name.

Study by Joseph Tkach

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