Christmas in Prison 3

by Sheldon McDowell

As I approach spending my 25th Christmas in prison, the subject matter at hand has brought upon me some reflections that I’d like to share.

I can’t begin to tell you of the pain and misery I suffered during my early years of incarceration as the Christmas Season approached; the commercials on T.V., the music on the radio, the decorations adorning the prison walls and covering the security stations, the bright-colored clothing worn by the staff and visitors; all invoked memories of times recently passed spent at home with my family, that I’d rehearse over and over again in my mind until restrained tears would burst through from my eyes in want of re-living the experiences of joy and blessings I’d once known.

Juxtaposed to the turmoil just described, I was more accurately introduced to a perspective on Christmas that l’d not previously known. From the introduction of Advent (a season of celebrating the first coming of Christ, and awaiting His second coming, which starts right after Thanksgiving), I was instantly aware of how lost I was to what the mainstream church had known for years. So I was compelled to take a closer look at what was being called Christmas, and the origin of the story behind it.

As each Christmas Season came upon us, again and again, I’d go through a similar emotional wilderness, focusing on the drought, wild animals; surrounded by what I perceived as enemies. I missed the Manna each morning, the water from the Rock, the cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night; in other words, the reason for the season!

Gradually, I came to better understand what “for unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given…the government shall be upon His shoulder… His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”, meant and it’s direct affect on my life. (see Isaiah 9:6-7)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “And the Word became flesh and dwelt (resided) among us, and we beheld His glory… full of grace and truth. And of His fullness we all have received, and grace for grace. (see John 1:1, 14-16).” You want to talk about Christmas taking a different shape in my mind!!

In the “process” of time (as is always the case), I began to understand how I missed it all of my life, along with the rest of the world. What I called Christmas; what I longed for so many years, was a hoax; a commercial counterfeit that insulted and betrayed the heart of the One supposedly being celebrated; and I was left with a decision to make: which Christmas did I really want to recognize and celebrate?

I can truthfully tell you that today Christmas in prison still hurts. But it hurts for different reasons now. My desire has turned toward sharing the truth with my family and grandchildren that, worshipping the Father of our Lord and Savior of the whole world, in Spirit and in Truth, is the peace on earth and goodwill toward men, that God had in mind when He sent the angel to herald the good news of great joy to all people. (Luke 2:1-14)

I pray that your celebration would reflect the Spirit and Truth of the season as you follow Him daily, and that you experience His abundant grace upon grace, now, and in the Year to come. “Merry Christmas!”

 

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