Sermon: The Longest Night

prison-bars-with-candle(EDITOR’S NOTE: What follows is a sermon for December 21st, the longest night of the year. On this night many churches have a “Longest Night” service for those who are struggling to find joy this Christmas, often due to grief. This sermon was shared at St. David’s Episcopal Church, Richmond Virginia, in 2017.)

“The Longest Night”

A Sermon by Matthew B. Harper

The longest night of the year. A time when darkness comes early and stays late, when night feels unexpected and interminable. Tonight we gather to acknowledge that darkness, and to dwell in it quietly; we know it exists, and it’s okay that it does. “Merry Christmas” may not feel all that ‘Merry,’ but it is Christmas and we know the light of dawn is just over the horizon.
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Christmas in Prison 5

by Terrance “Lil’ Bear” Plummer

Christmas In A Prison House

A house is not a home. I’ve been in prison now for 21 years, I was put in jail 6 days before Christmas December 19th 1995. Now, that was one of the toughest Christmas’s I had ever known! The pain that takes place within from missing family! It was primal. One can almost hear the silent screams inside at God and life. For the man or woman who never came to know Christ Jesus while in this prison experience, the silent screams never really go away at the Christmas season. It’s never easy doing time during the Holiday Day season while in prison, but when one has had an experience with Jesus, everything changes. Most men I’m doing time with never knew Jesus is the true and real reason why we celebrate. Most can’t see the new life Jesus really bring. Continue reading

Christmas in Prison 4

by AMN

I have been incarcerated for 14 years and the more I read the Word of God, the more I realize that my former traditions of celebrating Christmas were in fact not Christlike at all. The corporations of the globe have seized and confiscated this day to exploit consumers and enslave them to worship this holiday solely based on materialism.  Continue reading

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.
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Christmas in Prison 1: “Bears for Christmas!”

by Keith Wiglusz

Christmas in Prison: Bears For Christmas !

I think of this more than anything during the Christmas season while incarcerated.

My first Christmas in prison my two daughters were ages 8 and 9. I was very active in their lives before I fell and we were very close especially at Christmas time. This very first year of incarceration they came to see me. “Seeing me behind razor wire for them would be harsh and sad,” is all I had going through my head. My wife and I had made the decision to stay together when I fell and see if we could actually stay together. I had my doubts but she insisted that I at least should see my girls no matter what. Now the big test was upon me on this very first Christmas day with them walking into a prison with all the razor wire only to see their dad in tan scrubs.

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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.

Lectionary: Advent 1A

by Matthew B. Harper

ADVENT 1

November 27, 2016
Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44

Happy New Year!
Here we are, on the first Sunday of Advent, beginning a new liturgical year as we prepare once again for our Christmas celebration. Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, giving us the longest possible Advent season. That doesn’t seem very remarkable, except that it has put our Sunday worship right on the tail-end of Thanksgiving. I believe it is significant, even important, that in our worship we are able to give thanks, and to let that be the prelude and celebration of our new year.
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NEW BOOK: Highways in the Desert

highwaysLast year, Prison Lectionary launched with daily Advent devotions by our friend Matthew Harper. Since last year, Matthew has revised or rewritten those reflections, added some new materials, and compiled it all into his latest book. You can purchase it in Kindle or print format here.

Here’s a sneak peek from the forward:

There are countless books available on Advent, but this one is different. The devotions and reflections were written by a man in his eighteenth year of incarceration. In prison, faith and time take on new meaning. During Advent – this season of expectation – open yourself to the unexpected as Matthew Harper shares a bit of his story with you. Although his perspective is unique, you might just find that you have a great deal in common.

Christmas Eve

by Matthew B. Harper

He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intervene; Then His own arm brought Him victory, and His righteousness upheld Him. (Isaiah 59:16)

Tonight is the calm in the storm. The presents are wrapped, the food is put aside, the traveling is over, and tomorrow is Christmas. Tonight is the night for celebration, for worship, and for community.

I love stuff. On the street I was a guy with lots of tools, lots of clothes, bookcases full, and a kitchen overflowing. I didn’t just love stuff, I loved my stuff. The world seemed to be teaching me that what I owned was the measure of my life, and I listened with both ears.

I’m in prison now, and most of my things have been long given away to friends and family, passed on to those people who can use them. But some of the things are being kept and stored by my family, and that is important to me. It is a type of promise to me, a promise that there will again come a Christmas when I can celebrate at home.

In prison I am not sustained by stuff, or by the memories of something I used to have. I am ministered to, sustained by, and loved by my family. The people that I love, if they are family of my birth or family of my choice, are the most precious things in my life.

Because the real measure of our lives is not the stuff, it is the people that are in it. The measure of our life is not what we have, it is how we love. I miss some of my stuff, (a favorite sweatshirt, a great CD, my bed) but I would not trade the full measure of everything that I own for one single of my friends.

After all, it is only stuff – and this is about love.

Once in royal David’s city stood a lowly cattle shed, where a mother laid her baby in a manger for His bed: Mary was that mother mild, Jesus Christ her little child – (Hymn 102)