The Coming of Jesus: Dawn Breaking from on High

On this feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, let us be reminded that the “dawn from on high” that broke upon us nine days ago is still with us in this glorious Christmas season. Has He dawned in your heart yet?

“In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Lk 1:78-79)

For human beings, creatures of light, dawn is a metaphor for hope. As the days have drawn short with the advent of winter, we find ourselves looking forward each day with greater anticipation to the break of dawn — that blessed time when a new day finally stretches before us, bathed in light, replete with possibilities.

In its beginning chapters, the Gospel of Saint Luke leads us to an awareness of dawn as not a time of day but rather as a Person — the Person of Jesus Christ. With His coming on that first Christmas, the dawn of the Messiah’s earthly life broke to shine with incomparable brightness on a cold, dark, needy world.

Saint Luke employs the father of John the Baptist to present this concept of “the dawn from on high.” In an economy of words ripe with meaning, the phrases of our opening quote from Zechariah’s Canticle of prophecy and praise illustrate this profound personification.

“In the tender compassion of our God”: Mortal minds cannot comprehend the intensity and magnitude of God’s love — a love so intense that it manifested itself in the greatest creative act of all time. It is this all-encompassing, infinitely compassionate love of the Creator which bore fruit in the womb of a Virgin.

“…the dawn from on high shall break upon us”: In the fullness of time, the Dawn thus begotten broke over a wayward world. His origins transcended the celestial heights visible to our limited human eyes. His glory covered the earth like a benediction whose power and majesty can have had no other source than heaven itself.

“…to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death”: The world onto which the Dawn shone His brilliant light was not unlike our own in its deep shadows, neediness, mortality. For those willing to follow it in faith, however, this unearthly radiance would lead inevitably to its Source, lighting the path to heaven.

“…and to guide our feet into the way of peace”: War, oppression, political occupation, and social unrest are conditions to which we have become so inured in our day that we sometimes forget they have existed from time immemorial. The Daybreak shone first onto a time and place no less in need of illuminating warmth and peace than our own. As then, still in our time, it is His radiance alone which can guide our wayward footsteps along the path to true and lasting peace. May we not shield our eyes from this divine light but rather bask in it with perfect trust and uncompromising faith.

For it is through the eyes of faith that we see in the expectant dawn of winter a reminder of this true Light whose coming we celebrate, He who personifies “the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:4-5). Our Dawn from on high is the unending daybreak which no degree of darkness or shadow of death can ever overcome.

This is the message of the Christmas season, reviving weary hearts with true hope as prophesied centuries before that one dazzling, earth-changing Daybreak we commemorate each Christmas.

“Rise up in splendor! Your Light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory” (Is 60:1-2).

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