Christmas – Not So Festive

Posted: 31 December 2014 in Prisons, Understanding Others
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Christmas in prisonThe Christmas season service I led was probably the ‘flattest’ I’ve experienced in a while.  Bad service? No, the guys were quiet, sad.  “Christmas is probably the most challenging time of year in prison. A prison sentence is often calculated in “how many more Christmas’s to get through?” It’s the time when families should be together. The time for parents to watch children unwrapping presents. Almost every TV ad is a reminder of the season. Parents in prison feel guilty that they’re not at home, and grieve for what they are missing. For those prisoners who have been permanently separated from their children the pain runs deeper still. And for those with no family outside to care, the loneliness of Christmas can be bitter.” So says Rev Lesley Mason, Managing Chaplain, HMP Send.

Rev Lesley adds “Facing the reality of Christmas can have a deep, even if subliminal, significance. Gathering for a carol service and mince-pies can be a sign anticipating something hopeful one day beyond prison. Gathering in the Chapel for a Christmas week reflection is a time for Christian prisoners to remember how much God sacrificed in Christ for them – that they are loved beyond measure by Him. They are precious in His sight. That’s why Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us. So to the prisoner – He is here in prison with me – more significant than crackers and mistletoe. And if I am that precious to God, He wants me to change and grow….He has a future – even for me – to fulfil. Even in prison! I can make a difference. Gathering for a Christmas morning service says we may be in prison, but together we will celebrate the Good News that we share. We matter to each other, we are better together.”

“It has to be said that celebrating Christmas in prison takes a real determination to shine light in the darkness. But travelling through it can deepen faith, and build strength for the New Year and its new challenges. Above all, Christmas says life is precious and worth fighting for.”

I found that too.  Unexcited as the guys were, the prayers afterwards, the murmured discussions and thank you’s were a sign that were plenty of those attending who were keen to do business with God, manage their feelings and look forward to a better life in the future.

Bill

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