Note: Today’s essay is by Tyler Severson, who is a new contributor here at the Beesley Project. We’re pretty excited about having him on board, and we hope you will be, too.
Today’s hymn deals with the shift of darkness to light, the dawning of the “glad reign” of Zion. The light of this new day pushes back the shadows of sorrow and mourning, and the hymnist rejoices in this, praising the morning for doing nothing more than arriving.
Morning always shows up. It’s not a surprise to anyone. The morning in question here was, in fact, “long by the prophets of Israel foretold.” The information was there. Anyone who wanted to see the morning just had to wait long enough. It was going to come the whole time.
That’s why, I think, mornings make for a pretty easy analogy. One of the first things in the natural world that we notice and come to rely on is the fact that, without fail, it will get light in the morning. Some days are brighter than others, but the sun is there, and it will always show up when it should.
This is especially fertile ground for gospel metaphors. Morning, dawn, new beginnings. Think of the morning of the resurrection, or the day dawn breaking of the beautiful, bright Millennial day. Consider the morning breaking, the shadows fleeing before the dawning of the Restoration’s brighter day.
It’s easy, then, for us to take morning–the literal end of darkness–and extrapolate it into our lives. We associate our hard times, sadness, depression, anger, loneliness, and every other negative thing with darkness, and we hope that just like it does in the natural world, every dark night is guaranteed its ending with the breaking of the dawn.
Think of the last horrible period in your life. Think of the misery and pain, the suffering emotional, physical, spiritual, or a sordid combination of them all. It probably seemed endless. Think of our lives, the trials and daily hardships, and how easy it is to become discouraged, coming to the conclusion that the sun will never rise again.
Our Redeemer promised us that this would not ever be the case. “I will not leave you comfortless,” he assured us. But how are we to trust that, when we’re all so desperately familiar with sorrow, grief, pain, and darkness? Many times comfort simply does not exist and cannot be found. We’re sure of this, convinced. Christ then explains the source of the comfort: “I will come to you.”
We’re not promised that he’ll be hovering over us, waiting for a bad thing to happen so he can snatch us up. In fact, he never promises the absence of discomfort. He seems to be promising that it will happen, that we will all be comfortless at some point. His promise is not that nighttime will not come; it is that the dawn will always break. Our Savior is the sun to our blackest nighttimes. He promises comfort, warmth, and–taking the long term view–an end to darkness for all time. And he promises that we can count on him to bring it.
And what with it? What does the Rising of the Son have to offer us? Flowers of joy and righteousness from deserts of sorrow and sin. Places of waste–wasted time, wasted virtue, wasted opportunities–rising in verdure and mingling in the song of redeeming love. Most importantly, the return for bondage for millions of people lost in the darkness of sin. Christ’s light and warmth let us see just how lost we are and let us find our way back to the right path. It makes so much sense that his birth, the dawn of salvation, would be marked by a day and a night and a day with no darkness.
Hail to the brightness of Jesus’ morning; joy to the hearts that in darkness have lain. Hushed be the accents of sorrow and mourning. Jesus, our Savior, begins his glad reign.