Thursday, Second Week in Advent

by Matthew B. Harper

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested. (Revelation 2:10)

Prison is horrible. Prison is a deeply and profoundly negative experience that wounds and damages people. But not all people. As much as it is difficult, for some people prison is a test, and an opportunity. Prison can be a chance for society to seek healing and punishment for the penitent, and for the penitent to seek wholeness.

But that does not happen without the presence of God. Prison has often been likened to a church or monastery, but it isn’t. Church lifts you up and directs your gaze towards heaven; prison crushes you down, and grinds you to the depths of pain and longing. But yet, when God is present, it can be transforming.

In this barren desert a highway can be formed. In the barrenness of a concrete cell, on the arid stone of a human heart, something blooms. When nothing else works, where nothing else can go, then we notice God’s presence.

Each of us must discover on our own who Christ is. Each of us must be willing to meet Christ, and if we are willing to invite God in then we must be ready to accept what God is offering. C. S. Lewis once said that God accepts us as we are, but loves us too much to leave us as we are. When Christ is here, then everything is different.

Any time can be a test, and God is here with us. With God’s constant presence then every moment and circumstance can be transformed. This simple presence is the greatest gift we could imagine. In prison the presence of God, and the presence of loved ones, is the greatest Christmas gift there is.

Give the transforming gift of your presence this year.

The King shall come when morning dawns and light triumphant breaks: when beauty gilds the eastern hills and life to joy awakes. (Hymn 73)

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