The haunting tune of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” will fill the halls of many churches this week. Although the roots of this hymn trace back to the twelfth century, we never tire of hearing the name Emmanuel sung over us. “God with us” means that in the darkest times of life, even in the darkest prison cell, Christ’s love, demonstrated in His coming to earth, holds the power to break the chains of shame and fear.

The holiday season can be an especially dark time for people who are spending Christmas behind bars. In fact, many CBI students attest that feelings of loneliness and depression tend to surface during the holidays more than at any other time of year.

Yet even in the midst of these difficulties, the promise of “God with us” resonates profoundly with CBI students at Christmastime. Every year, Crossroad receives bundles of beautiful artwork and poetry from students who are eager to articulate the hope they have found in Jesus Christ.

Tom, a CBI student in Michigan, expressed the beauty of this hope in the form of a Christmas poem he wrote. Despite the struggles Tom might be facing during this time of year, his words overflow in praise of his Savior:

Christmas Blessings
O Child of wonder,
Child of might
You stepped down from
Your throne that night.
The heavens sang,
The earth rejoiced;
You came to us
To share God’s voice.
O gift of all
The ages, come!
Reveal to us
The Holy One
And let us see
With eyes made new,
That Christmas blessings
Flow from You!

Tom’s poem illuminates what lies at the heart of CBI’s prison ministry: Jesus’ coming to earth—the ultimate example of God dwelling with us—was the “gift of all the ages,” for all people. Even as Crossroad continues to come alongside incarcerated people through long-term discipleship, we can rest assured that Christ’s love is already working to reconcile every prisoner’s heart to God. What a beautiful truth to rejoice in this Christmas season!