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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, December 21, 2004
    Where it really means something
    I've had my Christmas early. Came in an hour-long carol service at HMP Altcourse. Because in a crowded chapel full of clergy and churchgoers, prison visitors, staff and management, on the lips of prisoners the familiar words of scripture and seasonal song rang, rankled and rose:

    One prisoner read Isaiah 9, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. ... He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice ... from that time on and forever". Which made me wonder, what sort of justice, for whom, and when?

    The story of the shepherds ... rank outsiders, despised nobodies - to whom God came first to break the good news. Retold with feeling by a senior staff member. He resisted embellishing it by making the obvious analogy; which made the story sparkle all the more.

    A prisoner bravely shared his tale of new-found faith inside - who is being released on Christmas Eve and who ended his moving story of conversion by facing up to his uncertain future back outside and saying, "I know I'm still a prisoner now - but I'm already free."