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Tuesday, 22 December 2020 17:47

Sharing Christmas spirit brings joy for all - a reflection


Fr James Aricheera SVD 150By Fr James Areechira SVD

As we are coming closer to celebrate the birthday of Jesus we may have many past fond memories of Christmas in our lives. As we know it is a time of remembering friends and celebrating the season with gifts and good food. I wish to share with you one of the many occasions in my missionary life where I experienced extra joy at Christmas.

It was when I celebrated Christmas with prisoners for the first time. It was in 2006. After visiting the prisoners for more than 10 years I thought I should do something special for Christmas for the locked up friends of mine. In advance I wrote to the correctional service of Hong Kong for permission to conduct a few Christmas prayer services and give simple gifts for the prisoners. I was granted permission and I got some simple Christmas gifts like chocolate and biscuits and sent them in advance to be inspected and to distribute to the prisoners on Christmas Day. Then, on Boxing Day that year, about 20 parishioners and I went to the prison and conducted a few Christmas prayer services and carol singing. Though it was a voluntary event, it was well Giving love Christmas 550received by the prisoners, and since we chose many of the popular Christmas songs most of the prisoners were able to sing with us. We too had a few good singers and musicians with us to sing and play the instruments. As part of the celebrations we also had prepared some simple quiz questions about Christmas and those who were able to answer those questions were given small gifts like cookies through the officers. We had short readings from the Bible and simple sharing of the passage. Then we prayed for different needs especially for the prisoners and for their families. We concluded the prayer service by singing together “We wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”

After six prayer services in different sections of the prisons we were all exhausted. On the way home, sitting on the ferry, we all were sleeping. For a few days I had a special joy in my heart that that year  Christmas was special. The following Sunday when I went to the Church for the Sunday Mass, at the end of Mass I thanked the participants who came with me for the prison prayers services. To my surprise many of them came to thank me for organising that activity and they too felt very happy about their experience of meeting prisoners and sharing the Christmas joy with the prisoners.

After the New Year I went to the prison for my regular visit to the inmates. To my surprise those people who attended the prayer services told me that, that Year, Christmas was very special for them. “Not only did we have a chance to pray with you all, but all of us got Christmas gifts from your Church. This year Santa Claus came to us and brought to all of us gifts for this Christmas.” A few officers in the prison told me that they too noticed the special joy and happiness among the inmates during the Christmas days.

There were also few naughty prisoners who asked me the personal telephone numbers of those beautiful girls who came for the prayer services, especially the good singers and musicians!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all readers.

IMAGE: Shutterstock.