Season’s Greetings! As another year draws to its close and as the busy holiday season begins, I want to thank you SO much for your love, prayers and faithful support of this vitally important ministry.
Let me briefly tell you the story of a beautiful old CHRISTMAS CAROL. It is not as well known as many of the “standard” carols and songs. The title of the song is actually somewhat depressing, but the message it conveys is incredibly powerful and hopeful. I want to focus on the last verse of this old Christmas carol, as the opening line of that verse serves as the “theme” of this year’s GraceInside Christmas Campaign:
What Can I Give Him?
Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) was an English writer of romantic, devotional and children’s poems. She was a sister of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a popular artist of the Victorian era that many call the father/founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement. In January 1872 Christina’s poem (that she originally titled simply “A Christmas Carol”) was published in Scribner’s Monthly. It would later appear in her own book in 1875 – a collection of her early poems. The poem eventually came to be known by its first line: “In the Bleak Mid-Winter.” In 1906, composer Gustav Holst composed a musical setting of Rossetti’s poem. It appeared in that year’s The English Hymnal, and it quickly became a popular Christmas carol all over the world. In 1909, a choral anthem setting was composed by Harold Darke. It has been widely performed by choirs around the world for over a century.
The words of the poem/hymn are very meaningful and theologically “deep” (with wonder and awe expressed over the miracle of Christ’s incarnation). It is somewhat surprising to me that this Christmas carol is not as well known or beloved in America. One can only speculate that it may possibly be due to its (quite literally) “bleak” title! But let’s take a look at that beautiful and moving final verse of the song. I would dare say that many of you have heard these words – even if you are not familiar with the hymn/carol itself. I hope that these words speak to you as they do to me.
What can I give Him, Poor as I am?
- Inflation, supply chain issues, rising grocery and gas prices and roller coaster stock market numbers that impact our retirement funds (along with a possible looming recession) – All of these things are stretching my budget thin, Lord. I have to admit that giving is hard right now.
- Lord, there are so many good churches, wonderful ministries, excellent causes and charities, so much need – but I don’t have a lot left over to give! And will the small amount I can actually give really even make a difference? [Yes! It absolutely WILL!]
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb,
- Lord, thanks for reminding me that Virginia’s state prisons are a MISSION FIELD – one that is “ripe unto harvest.” Thank you for reminding me that the state prison Chaplains are my MISSIONARIES. Day in and day out, those 33 CHAPLAINS labor at ALL 42 VIRGINIA STATE PRISONS, sharing God’s amazing grace and life-changing love with the 24,000 INCARCERATED MEN AND WOMEN that they serve.
- And Lord, thank you for reminding me that Virginia’s state prison Chaplains are NOT state employees and that they are NOT compensated with taxpayer monies. Chaplaincy only happens in Virginia’s state prisons because folks like ME make it happen! For OVER 100 YEARS, caring individuals, churches, denominations and foundations have joined together to GIVE the gift of chaplaincy to Virginia’s state prisons. WOW!!!
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part,-
- Wait a minute, Lord. I’m smart enough to know that most GraceInside Chaplains are still only able to serve PART-TIME. And many of them serve at large facilities that house 1,000 or more men or women – while others serve at multiple prison facilities and yet are still PART-TIME. Lord, our prison Chaplains need more ministry hours, and so many more of them absolutely need to be FULL-TIME! What part can I play in making that happen???
- Lord, perhaps you want me to be an “ambassador” for GraceInside. Maybe I could tell my friends, family members, neighbors, fellow church members about this amazing work that is going on behind prison walls. Maybe God is calling MY church to add GraceInside to its annual budget or to do fundraising or to “adopt” a Chaplain and prison facility. Lord, maybe you are even calling me to use my spiritual gifts and talents to go in as a religious VOLUNTEER – to help the Chaplains in their work and to be on the “front lines” of changing hearts and lives!!!
Yet what I can I give Him, Give my heart.
- Hold on, Lord. I think you just gave me the ANSWER! Jesus, in Matthew 25:36, you clearly identified yourself with “the least of these” – including PRISONERS! You plainly said, “I was in PRISON and you came to me.” So Lord, that means that if I am sharing the Good News of your love and grace with INMATES, I am sharing love with YOU!!!
- So Lord, I am “GIVING YOU MY HEART” when I GIVE sacrificially and faithfully to provide CHAPLAINS, more chaplaincy ministry HOURS, and more FULL-TIME Chaplains to love on and care for the inmates and staff at our state prisons! Okay, Lord, I’m ready to “give you my heart” by giving as generously and sacrificially to the ministry of GraceInside as you lead me to give and enable me to give. Here’s my HEART, Lord!!!
Thank you SO much, dear Friend, for your kind, loving and sacrificial HEART.
Have a Blessed Advent and Christmas season.
Glory to the Newborn King!
Rev. J. Randy Myers