The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
There are two claims tucked into this short verse that invite our attention.
First, there are many lights in this world. We might read that in more than one way. We might read that as saying that there are many things that claim to be the light and are not. Many things that promise illumination, clarity, and life, but cannot deliver. And certainly we can each name times when we have been disappointed when things that claimed to be light failed to give us light or at least took far more than they gave.
But it might also be that there are indeed many things that shed light, but do not enlighten everything and everyone. Things like family or friends or a rewarding job. These are incredibly important, but even when they shed good light on our lives, yet no relationship or job fulfills all of our needs and we certainly don’t expect them to care for everything and everyone else. And so John confesses that the true light – the Word and Son of God – is now coming into the world.
Second, John confesses that this light is for everyone. Not just people of a particular time or place, and most definitely not just people of a particular ethnic group or religion. What God is about to do in the Word made flesh is for all. Everyone. No exceptions. Period.
It’s easy to forget that. We are inclined to look at paintings of Jesus that reflect our ethnic identity, history, or customs and celebrate that God in Jesus came for us. True enough and worthy of thanksgiving. Yet God in Jesus also came for everyone else. And we only grasp the magnitude of John’s claim and promise about Jesus when we hold onto the wonder that God came for us and for all others and that we, therefore, only live into the fullness of our lives when we see in those around us – whether they look similar or different to us – the face of our siblings, co-heirs, and fellow children of God.
Prayer: Dear God, the true light that enlightens everyone has come into the world. Cause our hearts to tremble with wonder and joy that your light and love knows no bounds. In Jesus’ name, Amen.