He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
Light is a concept that started taking new meaning for me almost 11 years ago, when my first child was born. My husband, Whelan, and I had decided that if we had a daughter, we would name her Lucy, which means "light" (we just liked the name; the pleasant word origin was a happy coincidence).
As I neared the end of my pregnancy during the Advent season, I took in the Christmas lights of our Brooklyn neighborhood with a sense of wonder that I hadn't felt in years: next year at this time, I would think, we'll be celebrating Christmas as a family of three.
Lucy was born January 5th, and of course she absolutely was a light in our lives. So many things about her-her soft coos, her fuzzy chick hair, her first smiles-were rays of sunshine to us on cold winter days. And she served as a reminder of life and hope as her birth year also brought the loss of my three remaining beloved grandparents.
I realize that in the above passage, though, John is talking about more than these sorts of associations with light. Yes, the "true light" that was coming into the world with the arrival of the baby Jesus would bring the world many of the things Whelan and I felt with our own baby-hope, joy, and a new appreciation for life. But as all new parents know, the arrival of a baby also rocks your world and makes you see everything, everything differently.
Music sounds different. The lives of every parent you know inspire fresh consideration (one thought I've had every day for the past 11 years: How did my grandmother raise seven of these creatures?). And certainly, many stories in the news mean much more to you than they ever did before. Your capacity for empathy is suddenly laid bare.
This is important to think about during Advent, especially now as we are reminded daily of the dark and desperate lives of so many around the world. Yes, light can make us happy and warm. But we must also let light illuminate our vision and give us perspective on how to share it with others. Advent gives us a chance to consider with fresh hearts the arrival of new life...and the ways in which we, like John, can "testify to the light," and let it into our hearts so that we may share it with others.