Christmas in Prison 8

“From Magic to Miracle”

by Marcos R


Silent night… Holy night… All is calm… All is bright is crooning out of my old school General Electric Superadio II (1970’s model boom box) while bright flashing images of holiday commercials, Christmas movies and Charlie Brown specials splash across the bed sheets and bland narrow cell walls through my 2008 model RCA digital bubble TV screen. I channel surf while sitting on my top bunk, lost in my thoughts, missing my sons… It’s been over 9 years since I last saw or spoke to them. “I wish they would pop up on a surprise visit this Christmas,” gallops across the barren flatland of my pain-stricken mind as I look out to the gallery through rusty, paint-chipped iron bars. I hear keys jingling like jolly bells… It’s one of the correctional officers coming up the stairs with an armful of mail. Please Lord, let me get some mail tonight?! Oh, look! I’ve got 3 pieces of mail, some Christmas cards from my mom, my Aunt in Puerto Rico, and my friend Christie… these are nice… eyes watery with endearing gratitude. “Thank you Father,” springs off my tongue in praise.

The phone comes to my cell at 6:00 pm. I call my mom… ring… ring… “Hi, Mom, Merry Christmas! How are you?”… “Oh, yeah, I’m good. We just ate some turkey and some pork slices, some mac & cheese, candied yams, and some pumpkin pie… I am full right now! What’d you all eat at home this afternoon?” …

It doesn’t get much more eventful or festive than this for me… small remnants of a happy past time. Every year, Christmas seems to lose more and more of its familiar joy and sense of nostalgia I once treasured so dearly in my heart. I remember the surging excitement I used to feel in my tummy on Christmas Eve as a kid growing up, when anticipating the unwrapping of beautifully decorated gift boxes laying beneath the fresh pine tree, dressed with hundreds of dancing colorful lights, sparkling ornaments, chirping ball and brilliant star atop it lovely pinnacle just centimeters short of kissing the ceiling.

I miss the mystery of Santa and his sleigh with magical flying reindeer delivering gifts through chimneys of snow-capped homes, and even though I quickly learned that they didn’t really exist, it didn’t matter because that was never really the point anyway. It was the wonder of imagination that took my soul to new mystical heights of glory. Family gatherings were the best part of Christmas for me because everyone came from both sides of the my parents’ kinfolks to eat and dance to classic salsa y merengue jams, laugh and drink, talk and reminisce on the good-ole-days, play with the wide-eyed joy-filled children—so many kids in family, it was glorious!

But now, fifteen years and five months later into serving this natural life sentence, that “magic” is long gone. My memories, stored away in old cardboard boxes, caked up with years of dust inside the spider-webbed attic of my newly renovated mind, renovated by the sobering realities of my own life experience, while sitting in prison for a murder I didn’t commit, although I am not completely without fault, but rather, wrongfully convicted. While suffering this grave injustice at the hands of corrupt police detectives and a conspiring Assistant State’s Attorney, I sought God’s face in full prostration and encountered His love & truth on such a deeply personal level that my whole way of thinking and seeing the world (i.e., people culture, traditions, etc.) has been entirely transformed. This 15 yrs. (plus) long journey has reshaped the way I now see and experience Christmas. Even though the childhood/adolescent magic has dissipated, I now know and get to experience the miracle of Jesus Christ being born in the humble manger of my war-torn heart. He has taken my childhood nostalgia and faced memories and named them to the cross that I take up daily. Old things have passed away, behold, I make all things new!

Now I can see an infinite world of possibilities for new joys and greater memories to create with new friends and newly loved family members. God’s mercies are new every morning and they are everlasting. This is a miracle all on its own which I am overwhelmingly grateful for.

Our criminal justice system is changing for the better. Restorative Justice is being taught and practices more & more in prisons, courts, schools, and in our communities. Laws are being changed to reduce overcrowding, eliminate recidivism, and abolish mass incarceration. Education is being poured back into maximum-security prison and long-termers like myself are preparing ourselves to successfully reintegrate and become productive citizens.

These are all new beginnings! Today, Christmas is a new beginning for me, as I remember Christ being born anew in my spirit again and again, constantly renewing my mind and my hope for a good quality lifestyle both today and tomorrow. It’s amazing how God has taken the magic of my childhood wonder and transformed it into the miracle of my life and destiny. Christmas for me in prison is now my own personal rebirth, for as Christ came into this world to heal, to free and to save humanity, so too will I be a vessel of honor, extending God’s love, truth, healing and restoration to all of my brothers & sisters in this broken world. Merry Christmas!

Round yon virgin… Mother and Child…
Holy Infant… Tender and Mild…
Sleep in Heavenly Peace…
Sleep in Heavenly Peace…

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