O Morning Star,
Splendour of Light Eternal and Son of Righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
O come Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine Advent here,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadow put to flight.
Christ as Dayspring is probably one of the O Antiphons that's most familiar to our thought. Yes that sentence is correct, I did say most familiar. It's simply that we don't use the word dayspring nowadays, but if we translate it into 21st Century English then it becomes a lot more clear. The dayspring is simply the dawn. So, when we call on Christ as the Dayspring from on high, we are calling on Him as the Light that comes into the world.
Light of the World, You stepped down into darkness,
Opened my eyes, let me see.
Christ the Light coming into the darkness of this world is something a bit more at home in our typical worship thorughout the rest of the year than the Root of Jesse, the Wisdom of God or the Angel of the LORD. And it's not just a popular theme in our worship.
Just a few months before the birth of Christ, John the Baptist was born, and when he was, his fahter Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. Hs prophecy is generally known as a song today (The Song of Zacharias or the Benedictus), and it concludes with the Dayspring:
Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78-79).
God, in His tender mercy, sends the Dayspring from heaven to cast out the shadow of death with the Light of Life and to bring peace on earth (goodwill toward men!). And Zacharias was prophesying that his son, John, would be God's prophet, pointing people to the Dayspring who would bring salvation and the forgiveness of sins (Luke 1:76-77).
And that's exactly what John did. For John pointed people away from himself and to the merciful Dayspring who brought forgiveness, salvation, life and peace — "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Jesus is the Dayspring from on High.
But the promise of the Dayspring, of the Light stepping into the darkness, wasn't something new in Zacharias' day. Way back at the beginning of Israel's history as a nation, god compelled the reluctant Balaam (he of talking ass fame) to prophesy:
The utterance of him who hears the words of God, And has the knowledge of the Most High, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Who falls down, with eyes wide open: “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult. (Numbers 24:16-17)
Balaam saw the Light coming into the darkness, a shining star coming with a sceptre. And this shining Light will bring deliverance to Israel from the enemies of God. But who is this Light who delivers God's people from God's enemies? Balaam says it's "Him" — God, the Most High, the Almighty. God Himself is the Light who comes into the darkness to bring salvation!
Balaam wasn't the only prophet to prophesy the coming of God the Light to bring salvation. Malachi calls Him the "Sun of Righteousness" and tells us that He would "arise with healing in His wings" (Malachi 4:2). As the Light comes, He pushes back the darkness of sin and the curse, repelling them with righteousness and healing.
And Isaiah, the great Old Testament Evangelist, prohesied the Light:
The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined. (Isaiah 9:2)
Like Balaam, Isaiah prohesies the light banishing the shadow of death. But whilst Balaam told us that this light was God Himself, Isaiah tells us something else about His identity. Hw have the people seen this great light?
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
The Light who is God is born as a child. He is God and yet He is the Son sent from God. This Light is Jesus, the Light of the world (John 8:12)!