I went to prison this week! Not for crimes which I had done but to attend the graduation of 45 men from college. Through The Global Prison Seminaries Foundation, founded by my friend, Burl Cain former warden of Angola Prison in Louisiana, these men had the opportunity to graduate with a four-year degree and it came with all the pomp and circumstance of a full-blown graduation. Members of the faculty and Provost and President came in full regalia and gave speeches. The graduates were in cap and gown – two gave their testimonies: where they had been – they are serving “15-to-life” sentences – but, their lives are changed. You could see the transformation in their faces.

And their families sitting off to the side were beaming with pride. I am sure several mothers never dreamed she’d see her son graduate with a 4-year degree in Christian Ministry. All the long nights of tears and hours sitting in a courtroom…What did she feel? Pride? Relief? Joy?

Their sentences were not shortened or commuted or pardoned. Those circumstances are the same. They are still incarcerated. but now they will be sent to other prisons as “missionaries” to minister to other prisoners. Their transformation does not depend on their circumstances.

At Christmas, we speak of transformation. The heavens were transformed with an angelic host proclaiming “Good news of great joy”. A teenaged virgin was transformed into the mother of God. The simple, humble shepherds were transformed into evangelists. The kings from the East, so used to being honored, were transformed into gift-bearers. Indeed, our very world-history was forever changed. This baby’s birth changed everything. We divide our calendar with BC – before Christ and AD – anno Domini “since Christ was born”. (Yes, I know they are trying to change that, too.)

John’s Gospel tells us, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” What a transformation! No longer was the Word from on High – it was here, in the flesh. It walked among us. It was real. Because of God’s willingness to transform Himself into a baby we can be transformed into His likeness just like those graduates!

That is good news of great joy!


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