When I (Doug) first saw a painting of the Magi we received from one of our students, I was awestruck. I was drawn to the three men looking to the skies in wonder and awe. On their faces, I saw no distraction or doubt about the journey ahead. Their eyes seemed to have a steady gaze forward in anticipation of something extraordinary.
The story of the Magi came alive to me as I studied the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I could almost smell the fragrance coming from two of the vessels. As I breathed in the aroma in my imagination, I remembered that our thanksgiving and worship are fragrant to God.
As my eyes shifted to the night sky, I noticed the star formations, which reminded me that the Magi were experts in reading the skies above. As I drew even closer to the painting, a memory washed over me. I was reminded of the northern lights shimmering and shooting across the sky on cold winter nights while walking the prison yard in northern Michigan. The lights were like singing angels. Though I couldn’t hear words, I could see the lights shining and dancing across the heavenly sky in perfect harmony. It was nature’s way of praising God and singing over me as I stood looking up from that hollow place. God was reminding me that His beauty and power reign over everything, including a prison on a cold, dark night.
As we read the story of the Magi in Matthew 2, imagine their hearts beating quickly as they investigated the night sky and stepped out in faith on a dangerous journey to meet the hope of the world, Jesus. Imagine them carrying their costly gifts for months across the desert with tender care and protection.
After reading the story, consider our students in prison. Many of them own very little, but they give freely of what they do have. Consider our student artists who generously share their work with us. Consider the students who give $5 here, $10 there to support the Crossroads program. Consider the students who use their gifts to lead Bible studies in their facilities. This is their gold, frankincense and myrrh, and it is beautiful.
Their gifts, prayers and acts of worship are like a sweet-smelling aroma to Jesus. When they “walk in the way of love,” their lives are a “fragrant offering” (Ephesians 5:2).
Remembering this truth is especially important during the holidays. Christmastime is incredibly lonely and depressing for people in prison. If you are a Crossoads mentor, encourage your students not to give up as they pray, worship and live by the Spirit.
“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).
Doug Cupery is the Church Mobilization Director at Crossroads Prison Ministries. He also spent several years serving as the local missions pastor and leader of the jail ministry of Ridge Point Community Church and also spent several years at 70 x 7 Life Recovery, working with people returning to their communities after incarceration. As church mobilization director, Doug has a passion for engaging and equipping the Church to care for men and women in prison around the world.
To learn more about the Prison Art Project, visit https://prisonartproject.org
Image by Nickolas H,., IL | Medium: Acrylic