This Thursday is the last advent service in the prison and Saturday I’m doing a memorial service for those in the unit that have died this year [at the prison’s request – certainly not of my own choosing], along with a christmas service. The memorial service is compulsory, unless we can talk the prison out of that. There have been a lot of deaths in there this year, but really, they want this on christmas day?


I read the stories for advent 4 in the hopes of getting some inspiration. I didn’t like them, so I went to the christmas eve stories. I couldn’t escape it though: the line that seemed written in bold, in everything i read, was ‘Do not be afraid’. Anything but that, i thought, but i think i’m going to have to go there…

Do not be afraid
the angels said
over and over.

I wonder what they would know
about fear
and what right they have to preach against it.

Do not be afraid.

[I think these are the same angels who say
‘buck up!’ to the depressive
or ‘it will all turn out ok’ to the heartbroken.
I stifle the urge to slap them.]

I picture the men I would say the words to
broken beyond repair
silent and babbling
grasping for life
frightened for every good and necessary reason.

I chew my pen
searching for the way into the impossible
feeling stifled by the irony
that i am not the one who should be doing this,
i was just the one who said yes.

Do not be afraid of being chosen,
I write,
or loved

or of being the one who could be the gift of love.

i squeeze the story again
into palatable squares of white bread
to be consumed by the ravenously hungry.

it will have to do.


  1. Jennie

    Hi Cheryl,
    ouch – memorial on xmas day -that’s a hard call.
    I’m just reading this after reading some appreciative feedback from our ‘blue christmas’ space last night – giving space for those for whom Christmas isn’t all ‘joy to the world’ – for those who are grieving, angry, lonely, unemployed, broke etc. And I wondered if there mightn’t be something in that kind of idea for you … the acknowledgement that there is ‘bad stuff’ in the Christmas story (the relinquishing of reputation on Joseph’s part, the slaughter of the under 2s, the escape to Egypt), and perhaps the hope voiced in John 1 that the darkness cannot overcome the light.
    anyway, random thoughts to take or leave…
    peace & blessings

  2. hi Jennie – sounds like your service was lovely. i think our ‘regular’ christmas service in the prison will have those elements – [i was saying to a friend last night that i don’t know that i’ll ever be able to go to a church on christmas day now – all the joy would do me in!]. the memorial needs to be non faith specific, so i’ll only talk about christmas day in reference to the feelings of loneliness and loss of those inside [though of course, some feel relief that they’re inside on christmas day… though when i start to add those permutations into the mix, i go a bit mad]

    nice to hear from you, hope all is well

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