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Christmas seems often to be about the happiness of other people: the candles shine for them. And for those in darkness that signifies: Christmastime – Suffering time.

The best one can do is sleep; at last good food, and most of all – smoking and forgetfulness. Those outside are well off, they can celebrate Christmas. When candles are lit behind windows, it appears there is peace, joy, fulfillment of all wishes. Christmas in prison demands too much – or demands too much in our times. The big shops play “Silent Night” or different songs weeks before. Christmas trees adorn gardens, parks, shops and of course the prison too. They are nto symbols anymore, they do not ask, would you like to participate? Christmas today is different.

In past times Christmas was important, during the war, before and after the war as well, in times of poverty, in all the centuries without a prosperous society. Your own presence needs to remain master of reality. During the Holy Night, alone with oneself and a candle one should say: I am a human.

Because, anybody must remonstrate: the ardent desire keeps its power, especially for the deceived – even if it went into emptiness, even if the path stagnates. Even if a human cannot purify himself , even if all circumstances are not pure anymore.

Everyone has to face the task, to wake the memory of a child, which developed into Jesus, who fulfilled his life. One Christmas song tells “that my empire was taken, where peace and joy are laughing”: Memories of depriving experiences – sadness lived through.

If Christmas looks like a celebration full of happiness for everyone, than the lonely Ego has the emotion to be excluded. This Ego should explain to him: Here I am; completely alone with memories, hopes and expectations for my life – I stand in the night with the result; the world has not fulfilled her promises, her indications of success for a single human; not for me. The thoughts that I should have had, what all others seem to have, are not helping either. The celebration of this night is a mirror, so that the Ego can recognise who he is – on the way from anywhere into nowhere.

I need to believe, bear up against desperation; in this night creativity is demanded, alone against the crash into darkness and gloom. A lonely human once spoke in an old song “body and soul in greatest suffering, when the realm of laughing peace and joy was taken from me”.

A human in pain asks himself after the loss of the “realm of joy”, where is the child I once was? A child, destined for a different life, than its later fate. For these are the pictures, the words, the music and the tales of Holy Night. But many of us have rejected an offer, a path – Christmas Night has to be learned. Help was despised and helpers opposed – even if it only was the voice of a mother; answered with “what does it all matters”? – with “I am not interested” – “it gives me nothing” – “I do not understand” – And this signified: My consciousness is not ready.

This hour in church is prepared for weeks with evenings in the church, with listening to each other, speaking to inspire attention, asking for assistant help and joining, so that one understands, comprehends the task of this night, preparing Christmas for oneself – something humankind outside does not understand. But: Christmas was always the most real for those who lived in darkness.

The entrance into this night – the night of conscious experience – must be prepared and trained. Good food, good friends, family are of no use; not even the gifts, although at Christmas one should be aware of his real wishes, the wishes of his heart, those that can be fulfilled and those, which never will come true, so that he knows, who he is. The task is, to forgive himself – to be reconciled with himself and the world. A great demand from an Ego that lost so much, whose way is obstructed. To be what one developed into – to know that the path had ended: Integrity against hate of one’s life, becoming aware that the light of life is a gift, if it is only for one hour in this special night.

One could ask the people at church, be here for me to wake up my sleeping abilities. Food, drink, tobacco do not represent Christmas – and the disappointment, that one is left empty handed once more.

Go into the night, asking the same question as the Minister in a church: “Earth, why are you so bitter, heaven why did you promise so much?” At some time or another the answer gleams.  

* written for the Christmas issue of the Journal in Berlin’s biggest prison, where I worked more than 20 years.


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This page was updated November 24, 2007.