“O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight” 

In the aftermath of the prophet Isaiah, a century passed with the Israelites still in mourning and exile in Babylon. Finally, Cyrus, the Persian king, granted permission for their return to the promised land. However, the physical return did not lift their spiritual exile. Longing for more than just the restoration of their land, the rebuilding of the temple left them weeping rather than rejoicing.

Fast-forward to the New Testament, just before the birth of Jesus. John the Baptist, born to Zechariah, prophesies about the Messiah’s arrival. In Luke chapter one, Zechariah praises the Lord for sending salvation through the descendant of David. This salvation, he describes, is like the dawn breaking from on high, dispelling darkness and guiding towards peace.

67 Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: 

68 “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,

For He has visited and redeemed His people,

69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us

In the house of His servant David,

70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets,

Who have been since the world began,

71 That we should be saved from our enemies

And from the hand of all who hate us,

78 Through the tender mercy of our God,

With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;

79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,

To guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:67-71,78-79 (NKJV)

Turning to the New King James version, Zechariah uses the term “Dayspring” to liken Jesus to the rising sun, bringing light to a dark world. This concept is echoed in the Gospel of John, portraying Jesus as the Word and the light of all mankind, a light that darkness cannot overcome.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5 (NIV)

The poignant imagery of “O come, thou Dayspring” encapsulates the longing for Jesus’ arrival to dispel the gloomy clouds of night and the shadows of death. Zechariah’s comparison of Jesus to the rising sun reflects the transformative power of the Messiah, turning darkness into light. The Gospel of John reinforces this, emphasizing that Jesus is the light that darkness cannot overcome.

In essence, “O come, thou Dayspring” captures the essence of Jesus’ advent – a source of joy, encouragement, and overjoyed spirits. His arrival disperses the clouds of night and banishes death’s dark shadows. Through Jesus, death is transformed from loss to gain, from punishment to reward, and from hopelessness to victory.

In the words of the hymn, “Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel has come to you, O Israel.” This journey from exile to Dayspring reveals a narrative of light and hope, symbolizing the profound impact of Jesus’ advent on the spiritual landscape of humanity.



The content of this article is drawn from a segment of the sermon titled “O Come O Come Emmanuel,” delivered by Nic Bancroft on December 3, 2023, at the Wilmington Church of Christ.

Watch the full message below: