Poem: “Jesus’ Birth”

by Timothy J. Donovan

“Jesus’ Birth”
Holy child of virgin birth,
born to bring salvation to this earth.

Down from heaven you did come,
so that your Father’s will is done.

Not to bring peace, but the sword,
to separate your own from the horde.

Capstone of God’s glorious plan,
to bring redemption for every man.

Lying in a manger with your star overhead,
destined to die and be raised from the dead.

To fulfill the promise you’ll be hung on a tree,
becoming a curse to set men free.

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Christmas in Prison 6

“My Most Memorable Christmas in Prison”  by CM

The holidays in general, and Christmas in particular, take on special meaning for those of us in prison for a variety of reasons. For the most part, guys are looking forward to receiving a decent mean of turkey and/or ham. Prison staff typically adopts a slightly less confrontational stance and well-meaning volunteers often come in for special events like concerts from church choirs. For some, this season will mark the one time of the year they’ll receive a visit, perhaps some mail; and for others, it’s a time that reminds them just how alone they are because these visits don’t come.

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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 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 2

by Hugh Brown
Perhaps the most challenging Christmas in prison was the first one. I had only been incarcerated four months so my adjustment to this environment was far from being completed. The only gift I wanted for Christmas that year was to be home. Well, there was something else I wanted, but I couldn’t turn back the hands of time to undo the hurt I’d caused. As the years have passed, Christmas away from family and friends has a new meaning. Yes, I’m physically separated from my biological family; however, I’ve been blessed to enjoy the true spirit of Christmas with the men around me – my extended family.

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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.

12th Day of Christmas

by Matthew B. Harper

For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. (Psalms 97:9)

How often do we really put God first? How often are we willing to do the difficult things that the Bible speaks of? How often are we willing to be loving, and not just always ‘right?’ How often are we willing to put forth our hand in love towards those that seem the most unlovable? What has our encounter with God done to us?

During Christmas we recall the humble shepherds who came to Christ’s infant bed; and I often wonder what happened to them afterwards. The gospels only record that the shepherds left the infant Jesus to go forth praising what they had seen. To truly encounter Christ changes us. Whether we accept or reject the offer of mercy and grace, our encounter with the risen Lord will have an impact on our lives, in each and every area.

In prison there is always someone watching. There are always people wanting to see if the changes are real, and if they are lasting. Because some people leave prison, and soon return bringing with them new crimes, new time, and new victims. But there are other men, ones for whom everything becomes different in a wonderful way. These men are able to go forth, in prison or out of it, into a transformed life. They are healed, and in their new life they can often become healers. This can only be by the power of God.

With God there is no addiction that cannot be overcome, and there is no idol that cannot be torn down. The God most high overcomes all. When we put God first in our lives then all things are made new, and the difficult is not so difficult. We are filled with God’s love and it spills over into loving others.

The snow lay on the ground, the stars shown bright, when Christ our Lord was born on Christmas night. Venite Adoremus Dominum. Venite Adoremus Dominum. (Hymn 110)

11th Day of Christmas

by Matthew B. Harper

And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The LORD is There. (Ezekiel 48:35)

The gift of presence is one of the greatest gifts that we can ever give each other. I think to all the moments when we tried to express our lives and relationships in words, and found them totally inadequate. Sometimes there aren’t words. All we can do is sit and be with each other, to hold each other in our tears and pain, and celebrate together in our love and joy.

But true presence in relationship requires no barriers, no betrayals. It requires that we are open and loving, vulnerable and trusting, and that can be more difficult than it sounds.

In living with and loving my fiancé I found something amazing and wonderful beyond anything I had known, but it was founded upon a deep betrayal. Already guilty of my crimes I lived in a lie that I was innocent for many years. Despite all that we did for each other, despite a love that overwhelmed us, I could never truly be present for her. I was always hiding something, always holding back. There was a hindrance, a burden, upon our love. It was a deep betrayal, and hurt her dearly.

To hear that God is an ever-present God is to know not just that God is with you always, it is also to know that there are no separations and no hindrances to love. There is a total openness to us in God’s love. We have wounded God and turned our backs to God, and there is still a constant and ever-present accepting love. In a deep and accepting love we find the calm assurance not just to be more fully who we are, but also to love back with wild and wonderful abandon.

Be present to those you love, and love them with a joyful and reckless abandon, hold nothing back – for that is how God loves you.

To you, in David’s town, this day is born of David’s line the savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Hymn 94)