“Getting Ready for Christmas.” Read Luke 1:39-66.
Last year I had the wonderful privilege of participating in the Angola Revival at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. Angola is one of the largest prisons in both acreage and the number of inmates.
Until a few years ago it was known as one of the most awful prisons in the country. It was a place of extreme violence and hopelessness. Because of Warden Burl Cain and helpful state administrations, it is now known as a model for prisons all over the country. The violence and recidivism rate has gone down and the sense of hope has gone up. Now inmates minister to inmates with the hope of Christ.
When I preached at Angola, I preached in a prison chapel where men (it’s a male prison) hear the gospel and praise a forgiving God. Right next to the pulpit in the main prison chapel is the organ owned by the late George Beverly Shea, “America’s beloved Gospel Singer.”
George Beverly Shea, Cliff Barrows, and Billy Graham made up the “face” of the Billy Graham Gospel crusades. On his 100th birthday, Mr. Shea donated the organ to Angola Penitentiary. I don’t know how the inmates felt about it, but I felt a profound sense of awe to think that George Beverly Shea had played this musical instrument and donated it with a sense of hope for downtrodden mankind.
Christmas is about hope in the midst of despair; it is about blessing in the midst of sorrow. The gift of George Beverly Shea is a symbol of the belief that God is at work and that people without hope have a hope and a future because of the gift of God.
Let us live in the hope that comes because of Christ.
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