I love Advent and Christmas! The preparation, the anticipation and the joy of the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
One of my favourite readings that we always have at the prison carol service is Isaiah 9:1, ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light: on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’ This is, of course, Isaiah speaking prophetically, foretelling the birth of Jesus some 700 years later.
At that first Christmas, the shepherds on the hillside had their evening interrupted by the angel choir illuminating the night sky and singing out praises as it was declared a saviour had been born, Christ the Lord. The shepherds experienced the glory of the Lord shining on them and got up in search of their saviour (Luke 2:8-20).
The wise men watching the night skies observed a new star and set off in search of the new born king. Their journey took them to meet Jesus as a young child in a house. (Matthew 2:1-12) They had seen a light in the darkness, had got up from where they were and set off to find Jesus.
It feels, for many people, that we are living in days of darkness. The ongoing restrictions made necessary because of the coronavirus pandemic have impacted us all. This is an ongoing test of resilience that none of us have asked for. Some have lost loved ones, others are feeling the pain of separation. What many outside prison are experiencing today is akin to the daily reality for prisoners; the physical restriction of movement and separation from loved ones. Into this sense of despair and isolation, the eternal message of hope, made possible by the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, calls out to us afresh.
We do not have a new star rising in the east, or an angel choir as heralds of the coming of our saviour, however, Jesus declared to us in John 8:12 ‘ I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’
The glory of the Lord shining above them caused the wise men and the shepherds to get up and move towards Jesus. Isaiah 60:1 tells us to, ’Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.’ If you are not yet a follower of Jesus, this Christmas, I invite you to start your search for Him. The Bible teaches us that if we seek him, we will find him.
If you are a Christian, I encourage you to lift up your eyes towards heaven, the glory of the Lord has already risen and He calls you to rise up, and as you do so His glory rises upon you.
Rev David Spademan is Managing Chaplain and HMP Onley.
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