John the Baptist was called by God to “prepare the way of the Lord.” In the Gospel of John this task is expressed differently than in the other Gospels. There it says that he “came to bear witness about the light, the true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.”
The ESV explains that the coming “true light” was that “which gives light to everyone.” I would suggest a better translation: “the true light that illumines everyone was coming into the world.” The notion behind this translation is that light (as Jesus instructs Nicodemus) exposes everything, particularly deeds that are done in the dark. As D. A. Carson explains, the coming of the light, therefore, “forces a distinction.” Those who 'come to the light,' who 'believe in the light,' 'will not walk in darkness.' But the one who does not come to the light 'stumbles, because the light is not in him.'
As is often noted, the opening of John’s Gospel is an intentional echo of the opening chapters of Genesis. In Genesis, God speaks everything into being and then is said to breathe the "breath of life" into his newly formed image bearer, making him “a living creature.” This act involves more than just animating the man, however, for God is soon communicating with him, giving him instructions as to how he is to live and serve. This suggests that the man has been endowed with capacities that separate him from the rest of God’s creatures. This impartation of life, then, includes the kind of “light” alluded to in John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . All things were made through him . . . In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
The problem that the human now has is that the light he follows is not the true light, but various refractions of false light. As a result, he follows light that misleads, confuses, renders his thinking “futile,” to quote Paul. Professing to be wise he becomes a fool, which, in turn, leads to all manners of rebellion.
It’s amazing, isn’t it, that God causes those who dwell in such darkness to be born again so that they can see the Kingdom of God? That is the staggering implication of the oft quoted John 3:16. The nature of God’s love is revealed by the decision to sends his son into hostile territory, territory occupied by the devil and his disciples, to turn rebels into loyal followers.
In this Advent season, a time in which the world lies in darkness, we long for the True Light to make his appearance. We wait with restless patience knowing that he will soon arrive — in just a few days, in fact. Let’s join the Baptist in bearing witness to his coming so that all might believe and “become sons of light.”