Essay Series: “Christmas in Prison”

On his 1973 album Sweet Revenge, singer-songwriter John Prine attempted to capture the despair and hopeful longing that he imagined simultaneously occupied the mind of a prisoner at Christmastime.

Whether or not “Christmas in Prison” is an accurate account might be debated. This year in lieu of Advent devotions we’ve invited prisoners around the country to reflect on what Christmas means behind bars. Some share stories of their first Christmas as a prisoner or one that is most memorable. Others offer their perspective on the ways Christmas is kept “on the street.” May they all remind us that wherever Christmas comes—to rich and poor, young and old, free and prisoner—it marks the birth of a child who would eventually die as a prisoner. Who knows? Maybe prisoners have some special authority on the matter.

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