When I was younger my brothers and I would wake up early Christmas morning full of excitement, eager to rush downstairs, open presents, and eat delicious food… but we had to wait. For some reason my parents seemed to think that 5:00 A.M. was too early! As a kid waiting was hard. We desperately wanted Christmas morning to start! I remember well the sometimes frenzied anticipation as my three brothers and I waited, not so patiently, in the dark pre-dawn for what felt like hours. And when the sun finally came up, Christmas morning was here at last!
Waiting for the Morning
The Bible tells us about a man who was looking forward to a particular morning with anticipation and excitement. His name was Zechariah, you might know him as the father of John the Baptist. There was something very special about the morning Zechariah was anticipating. He was waiting for a sunrise, but not the type of sunrise you might first think of. The sunrise Zechariah was anticipating wasn’t the start of a new day, it was a person!
Zechariah tells us about the sunrise he looked forward to in a prophecy:
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;Luke 1:76-79
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
In this prophecy, Zechariah starts by speaking about his son, John. He tells us that John the Baptist was born to fulfill a special role, to prepare the way for God to visit his people, to teach people how they can be saved, and to tell them that their sins can be forgiven because of God’s mercy. Then Zechariah tells us that once the way is prepared for God to come, “the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
Zechariah looks forward to a sunrise, a new morning. He anticipates eagerly the coming of the promised messiah, the savior of God’s people. We know that Jesus Christ is that sunrise. As the Apostle John said of Jesus’ arrival as a baby born in Bethlehem: “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9). Jesus Christ is the dawn of a new day, he is the radiance of the sun dispelling the darkness of night. Jesus came into a world in darkness and to bring light. What does that mean? It means he entered a world of suffering to bring hope. Jesus stepped into a world of sickness to bring healing. He chose to live in a world polluted with sin to bring forgiveness to the guilty and honor to the shameful. This is the good news of the gospel. As Zechariah tells us, Jesus does not merely start a new day, he is the new day. He doesn’t show us how we can dispel the darkness of this world, he is the light that casts out the darkness. You see, Jesus, through who he is and what he does, brings light into a world darkened by sin, evil, and corruption.
Celebrating Christmas Day the Christian Way
As the sun rises on December 25, Christians celebrate not a morning of presents, fellowship, and food, but the Morning. We celebrate not a day, but a person, Jesus Christ, whose entrance into the world as a baby meant that God himself had come to bring forgiveness and freedom from sin, and even freedom from death itself. As Jesus himself said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).