DeWitt Talmage was perhaps one of the greatest Christian orators of the 19th century. He died in 1902. I have a couple of his books in my library and have read quite a few of his sermons in the past 40 years. Toward the end of his life he made this statement. “At your first cry He will bend down from his throne to the depths of your degradation. Put your face to the sunrise.” The middle of Luke 1 tells us about Mary and her being the vessel that the Holy Spirit was going to use for the Christ to be born. Also, in that chapter, the story of John the Baptist is revealed to us. We see the prophecy foretold in the first part of the chapter and the birth of John in the last part. John’s father was named Zacharias and his mother, Elizabeth. When John was born, his father was immediately filled with the Holy Ghost and began to prophesy (v.67). He spoke of the ministry of his son, John, being the prophet of the Highest and going before the Lord to prepare his ways (v.76). The entire prophesy of Zacharias can be read in 1:68-79. For our focus today, I want us to look at only three of those verses, 77-79. These verses give us great insight into the ministry the Messiah would have, and John being his prophet who would be the forerunner and highlight that ministry.
There are at least five things Zacharias saw at the birth of John that Jesus Christ would bring when he came. He saw salvation, forgiveness, mercy, guidance, and peace. The old saint of God prophesied coming effects, but we get to experience them. Think about that first Christmas for a moment. For thousands of years those Old Testament characters looked for the Messiah. Every young girl in Israel hoped to be the one chosen to give birth to the Anointed One. Year after year it was talked about but nothing happened, until it did. Then everything changed. The birth of Jesus is the focal point of the history of the world. There are those that seek to take that distinction away from Jesus by using terms like B.C.E (before the current era) and A.C.E. (after current era) instead of B.C. (before Christ) and A.D (in the year of our Lord). But, if you point blank ask those secularists what caused the distinction in the eras and they are truthful, they must still admit that Jesus Christ is the center of how we measure and divide time or history.
Let’s focus quickly on 1:78. It is through the tender mercy of our God, his heart that is full of mercy, that we are blessed. It is this tender heart that the “dayspring” hath visited us. What is the “dayspring”? Two synonyms that may give us better understanding would be the dawn or the sunrise. The world and humanity in it are often dark places. Evil lurks around every corner seeking to destroy lives. Pain is rampant and comes in many forms. These pains can be physical, emotional, and spiritual. Haven’t you experienced long nights when hope is in short supply? The baby is sick, your body aches, you’re dreading going to work because layoffs are being rumored by co-workers. The car needs repair and you don’t have money to fix it. Your son or daughter have left home and you don’t know where they are, who they are with, or what you are to do. The nights can be long. There are times when I am up in the middle of the night, but I’d hate to know that every night I had to work that graveyard shift. I know why some companies pay extra wages for the night shift. When those nights get heavy it seems as if morning will never come, but then it does. When the dawn, the sunrise, the dayspring comes, things get better immediately. Something about the morning brings hope. The Lord Jesus brings us salvation, forgiveness, mercy, guidance, and peace. This Christmas let’s all be little John the Baptists. Behind many of the smiles you see is a heart that is heavy. Speak a good word to those you cross paths with this Christmas season. Let them know that when the dayspring comes into their life they’ll never be the same again. Let’s all take Rev. Talmage’s words to heart and “put our face to the sunrise.”