I remember celebrating Christmas behind bars when I was incarcerated. It gave me a whole new meaning to celebrating Christmas. I was not bombarded by the materialism of the holiday. I did not get caught up in the hustle and bustle of what I thought I needed to do in order to meet the demands of most of society’s view of what makes Christmas. Instead, I was caught up in watching my fellow inmates experience God’s grace as we endured the consequences of our poor choices through being separated from our children, spouses, friends, family, and loved ones. Interestingly, the separation we experienced from others living on the other side of the wire was overshadowed by the love of God and His grace and mercy in our lives. Sure, there were feelings of sorrow not being with family, but somehow we became family to one another and shared the holiday and the true meaning of Christmas without the filters of commercialism. I look back on those Christmas’s now and would have never thought in a million years that those were some of the most meaningful Christmas experiences I would have had.
This year I had the opportunity to celebrate Christmas with the inmates at our local jail. Many our blog followers know I am part of Prison Fellowship and help with a volunteer bible study for female inmates. It is one of the things I treasure, like a great cup of coffee, a favorite song or a day off from work in the middle of the week with nothing to do but play. As I participated in the Christmas celebration for volunteers and inmates, I could not help but to reminisce about the Christmas’s past while I was serving time. As I was listening to the message and singing Christmas carols; I was fighting back tears and remembering the many precious sisters I met behind bars and the bond of friendships that will last an eternity. The irony of all of this is I was blessed by my Christmas experiences behind bars and fortunate to have new experiences now that I am on the other side of the wire, through helping inmates in a different way.
As you read this blog, I ask you to think of ways you can help others who are behind bars, whether they are physical bars or another form of imprisonment, such as an addiction, grief, financial hardship, depression, loneliness, the need for forgiveness, or whatever the case may be. True Christmas is about giving yourself away to another. You never know if God is looking to use you to be the perfect Christmas gift to someone else. Merry Christmas!