Many are gathering in the next couple weeks for the holidays. It is one of the most celebrated times of the year as thousands travel by car or by plane to spend the holidays with their families. During this same time each year there are also thousands of men and women that are incarcerated, shut away from their families due to the mistakes they have made in their lives. These men and women will not have the privilege of gathering with family. The holiday season doesn’t bring much change to their daily routines as they continue to serve their time behind fences with razor wire.
While many that are incarcerated will try to be festive for the holidays, some lay silent on their bunk beds, trying to recall memories of childhood Christmases. Past and distant images are awakened of family and friends gathered around the table laughing and eating, then later relaxing and exchanging gifts. Scenes from television commercials of festive settings, whether it is a couple or family, in a park, sitting in front of a fireplace with snow outside up against the windows, or the view of the ocean surf from the beach or a hill top, reminds them of their desire for closeness with someone special and the excitement of watching their children opening their gifts.
Many prisoners try hard to keep their mind off the length of their sentence and the crime they have committed, but rather waits to receive word from home…though some messages will prove painful. A solemn air hovers over the prison. Try as they may to keep them away, dark clouds of failures, mistakes, regret and remorse over crimes committed that have separated them from freedom, bring salty raindrops in the form of tears. During this season many who are incarcerated are normally pretty hard on themselves. Disgusted with their current situation they often feel overwhelmed by hurt, anger and brokenness.
At the men’s facility that I serve at, I have found that during this season men are also more receptive to the Gospel! The Gospel offers them hope when all else seems hopeless. The love of Christ penetrates deep into their hardened hearts like no other love they have ever experienced! The holiday season though a sad time of the year for those who are incarcerated, can be a life changing time for many. So as we gather this holiday season I want to encourage you to remember those who are incarcerated. I would like to ask you to pray for these men and women. Though they are paying the price for their mistakes, they are also human like us. Their hearts hurt just like our hearts, their need for love is no different than ours. Pray that they would look to Jesus for the void they may be feeling. Pray that they would experience the love of Christ in their hearts and be forever changed!