Well, I've just experienced my first Christmas and New Year in jail, though thankfully not as an inmate. I've always really enjoyed the festive season but then I've always had family stuff and parties and socialising and presents and cards and food and drink and decorations and trees (yes trees plural in this house). Now I've met a portion of the population who by and large see Christmas as something to be endured rather than enjoyed. Many didn't get a single Christmas card. Not all of them have no relatives, but rather, over the years of addiction and crime, they've alienated all of them so that they're not in contact at all, even with their own children. The regime in prison over Christmas is quiet, with less to do than usual. On the other hand if Christmas in jail was wonderful they might be less inclined to want to stay out when they get out!
For us as a family we've had a mixed time. The kids got a great haul of stuff from Santa and the relations and we had a great time at my brother's on Christmas Day, playing with their baby twins. But we've had several bereavements too - two or three from church, one relative and one good friend.
However, Christmas is about light shining in the darkness. Winter in Scotland is pretty dark, but now we're past the shortest day (ironically my birthday!) and there will soon be the promise of spring. How much more wonderful that the Light of the World has come too, and all the dark places we sometimes have to inhabit can be flooded with His light. These people I mentioned, who have died, who we will miss, are now somewhere where artificial light isn't needed at all, where the light of Jesus is everywhere, all the time, and there is no more sadness, or pain, or indeed death.
Please pray with me that the prisoners (and staff too) I see at work, could, in 2008, see the light, and then move from darkness into it.