I don’t know what I was expecting. World peace? The end of poverty?
“Papers?” I naively asked.
“Yeah. Parole papers,” the one closest to me explained. “We want to be home for Christmas.”
Half of the men at my table were in the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary prison ministry degree program. (Yeah, I know. It’s a mouth-full.) I questioned those three again. “But what about your degree? If you got out on parole-” They stopped me before I could continue.
“There’s a N.O.B.T.S. on the outside. We’d be knocking on the door to finish there,” one of them explained. He’d obviously already followed that somewhat unattainable train of thought. I imagine they had each dreamed the what-if-I-wake-up-tomorrow-and-the-warden-tells-me-I’m-free-dream at least once or twice.
I returned home from the prison Christmas party to piles of laundry, but I couldn’t stop thinking about parole papers. Parole, according to Webster’s, is the conditional release of a prisoner serving an indeterminate or unexpired sentence. It’s when a prisoner is released before having paid their “debt to society.”
Although not often found on holiday wish lists, parole papers really are a fitting gift for Christmas. You see, at Christmas we celebrate the birth of our Savior – the one who died for our sins. The one who went to the cross in place of you and I, in exchange for our debt. The debt we didn’t pay. Jesus Christ is the only one who can provide parole papers.
Standing in my laundry room sorting the darks and the lights, I realized I’m just as desperate for “papers” as the men locked in Phillips State Prison tonight. Without those papers, I have no freedom.
True liberation can only come from Christ. Because of Him, I’m no longer bound. So the real great news of Christmas is this. Christ offers free parole papers to each of us.
Will you accept them?
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 NIV