One of the most sobering opportunities I have as a pastor is to visit prison inmates.
My first memory behind bars is with my dad who is also a pastor. As I remember, I was in late elementary. We drove up to massive granite walls, parked the car and began the process of admittance as visitors.
Someone had requested for my dad to visit this inmate and I will never forget the moment he shared he was incarcerated for murder.
My mind was flooded with thoughts and emotions…ultimately we shared the hope of Jesus and he shared a good reason for me to stay on the straight and narrow.
Since I have served as a pastor, I have had the opportunity to visit inmates in multiple state prisons and county jails.
Each time I go behind bars for a visit, there is a background check, and then metal detectors, metal gates and concrete walls.
It feels ominous and foreboding…almost hopeless. The irony is that the inmates thought they were free to do whatever they desired and ended up losing all freedom.
Perhaps my most memorable experience behind bars was in Brazil several years ago on a mission’s trip. I was invited to accompany a local missionary into a prison for young men under age twenty-one. This prison was made for the most dangerous criminals in the area. In fact, since we left at least one of the guys in the picture has been killed.
Anywhere in the world, a prison is marked by conflict. In fact, I think I can go so far as to say a prison can be described by absence of peace.
So what does this have to do with an advent sermon series?
This year, we are taking time to reflect on the Babe in a manger….but we are taking it farther. What did the Babe in the manger do while He was on earth?
This Sunday, I look forward to sharing from Luke 8:26-39…the story of the man who was possessed by demons. Not only was his body imprisoned, he had spent plenty of time behind bars bound by chains.
When he met Jesus, his chaotic, captive world was transformed into peace. When the Prince of Peace intersected with the demon possessed, everything changed.
This Christmas season, no matter what in your life is creating conflict, there is hope in the Prince of Peace. I sure hope to see you at 9:00 or 10:45am. If you cannot attend in person, you can watch it HERE.