“This Is the Day of Light”

"…Upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning…" (Lk. 24.1)

     INTRO.: A hymn which pictures the first day of the week upon which Christians assemble to worship God, study His word, remember the death of Christ, and edify one another is "This Is The Day Of Light." The text was written by John Ellerton (1826-1893). First published with six stanzas in the 1867 Hymns for Special Services and Festivals edited by John S. Howson, it was republished the following year in the 1868 Selection of Hymns for Use in Chester Cathedral with a stanza beginning "This is the day of bread" omitted by Ellerton himself. This text has been set to several melodies, but the most commonly used tune (Swabia) has been attributed to several composers. In some books it was called simply a "German tune," and in others it was said to have been adapted from the 1698 edition of Pietatis Melica originally edited by Johann Cruger (1598-1662). It is now believed to have been composed or arranged by Johann Martin Spiess (some sources spell it Speiss), who was born in Berne, Switzerland in 1696 (some sources say 1715).

     An organist, Spiess served at Bergazbern and later taught music at the Gymnasium and served as music director for St. Peter’s Church, both in Heidelberg, Germany, where around 1745, he prepared the first edition of David’s Harpffen Spiel which included this melody set to the hymn "Ach wachet, wachet auf." In 1746, he returned to Switzerland, where lived in Berne and published several works, including a second edition of David’s Harpffen Spiel in 1751, Geistliche Arien in 1761, and Musicalische Bibel Andachten in 1762, all issued for the Protestant churches in the Palatinate and other areas, prior to his death in Berne on June 4, 1772. The modern harmonization was made by William Henry Havergal (1793-1870). It was first published in his 1847 Old Church Psalmody. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater. Today it may be found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann.

     The song stresses what the first day of the week can do for our spirits as we gather in our places of worship.

I. Stanza 1 suggests that it is a day of light
"This is the day of light: Let there be light today;
O Dayspring, rise upon our night, And chase its gloom away."
 A. It was upon the first day of the week that God said, "Let there be light" and there was light: Gen. 1.3-5
 B. In the same way that physical light was brought forth upon this day, so when we assemble on the first day of the week we can ask the Dayspring, referring to Jesus Christ, to rise upon our night: Lk. 1.78-79
 C. As this morning star arises in our hearts, the day will chase the gloom away and shine in our lives: 2 Pet. 1.19

II. Stanza 2 suggests that it is a day of rest
"This is the day of rest: Our failing strength renew;
On weary brain and troubled breast Shed now Thy freshening dew."
 A. God commanded the Jewish people to observe the Sabbath or seventh day of the week as a day of rest: Exo. 20.8-10
 B. God has not commanded Christians to observe any kind of Sabbath rest, either on the seventh or first day, but the first day of the
week can be a day of spiritual rest in that our failing strength is renewed as we assemble and exhort one another: Heb. 10.24-25
 C. When we do this, God will bless us just as He promised to be like the dew to Israel: Hos. 14.5

III. Stanza 3 suggests that it is a day of peace
"This is the day of peace: Thy peace our spirits fill;
Bid Thou the blasts of discord cease, The waves of strife be still."
 A. It is a day of peace in that we come together to break bread in remembrance of the death of Him who came to make peace: Acts 20.7, 1 Cor. 11.23-26, Eph. 2.14-17
 B. Of course, Christians can pray at any time, but the prayers that we pray together with other Christians help us to have our hearts
filled with the peace of God that passes all understanding: Acts 2.42, Phil. 4.6-7
 C. As we submit our wills to His, Jesus can bid discord cease in our lives just as He bade the waves of the sea to be still: Matt. 8.23-27

IV. Stanza 4 suggests that it is a day of prayer
"This is the day of prayer: Let earth to heaven draw near.
Lift up our hearts to seek Thee there; Come down to meet us here."
 A. Prayer is an important part of the Christian’s life, including those times when we assemble together: Acts 4.23-31, 1 Tim. 2.8
 B. Prayer is one of the ways that we here on earth can draw near to God in heaven: Jas. 4.8
 C. Also God comes down, metaphorically speaking, to meet us here in the answers that He gives to our prayers: 1 Jn. 5.14-15

V. Stanza 5 suggests that it is the first or most important of days
"This is the first of days: Send forth Thy quickening breath,
And wake dead souls to love and praise, O Vanquisher of death!"
 A. The first day of the week has special significance to Christians because it is the day when our Savior rose: Mk. 16.9
 B. Because He is risen from the dead, He can send forth His quickening breath, just as He literally breathed upon the apostles, through the power of the gospel: Jn. 20.22, Rom. 1.16
 C. The first day of the week also reminds us that having risen from the dead Jesus is the Vanquisher of death: 1 Cor. 15.54, 2 Tim. 1.10

VI. There is a doxology written by Charles Wesley which is often set to this same tune and provides a fitting conclusion to the hymn (it used to be a custom to end a hymn with some kind of doxology)
"To God the Father, Son, and Spirit, One in Three,
Be glory as it was, is now, And shall forever be."
 A. The Bible teaches that there are God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit: Matt. 28:18-20
 B. All these three are one in their deity, just as the Father and the Son are one: Jn. 17:21
 C. We should give this great God, who alone is wise, all glory, botn now and forever: Jude v. 25

     CONCL.: In some churches it has been a custom to begin a Sunday morning service by singing a song which emphasizes the significance of the first day of the week. This hymn would well serve such a purpose. It is a short song, but there is a lot of powerful truth packed into its words, as it ministers to our spiritual needs of enlightenment, release from toil, calmness of mind, communion with the divine, and a quickening of our souls to greater love. It would help to put us in a better frame of mind to worship if, when we are assembled on the first day of the week, to remember that "This Is The Day Of Light."


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