Tuesday, Fourth Week in Advent

by Matthew B. Harper

For with God nothing will be impossible. (Luke 1:37)

In prison the population divides itself. We divide into cliques, groups, gangs, and mobs. You have your associates, your ‘stick-men,’ your ‘running buddies,’ and occasionally a friend. We divide by race, by religion, by geography, by sports, and even by politics. In a community designed to dehumanize you we define ourselves not to create a community, but to destroy it; not to include people, but to exclude them.

An old cell mate of mine was a young white man, and a bit of a racist. He ranted one day about how all the different religious groups were only masks for racism. One by one he went through the groups listing perceived faults, until he came to the Christian community. He paused for a while, and then grudgingly conceded that in the church here there were members from every group, every race, every culture, and every background worshipping together. Maybe we ‘had something going’ he said; maybe we were different.

Christ comes into our midst and welcomes us. Christ welcomes us All. Christ overcomes every barrier, and loves us beyond any fault or shortcoming. I know it because I see it, I feel it, I experience it.

Community. In a men’s maximum-security prison, Community. With Christ all things are possible.

O come, thou branch of Jesse’s tree, free them from Satan’s tyranny that trust thy mighty power to save, and give them victory o’er the grave. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel! (Hymn 56)

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