If I were to hand you a crumpled 3 year old packet of Sherbet Wizz Fizz and say, "Here! Merry Christmas!", I think I may get a very strange look and definitely would not want to know what you were really thinking!
But there is a story behind this packet of Wizz Fizz!
When I moved to Australia in 2004,, I had no idea I'd wind up in prison! No, I wasn’t arrested. A door was opened for me to work in the Juvenile Justice Centre in Malmsbury. It was a privilege to work there and experience the compassion, love and hope that Jesus shares through willing vessels in very dark places.
My desk was in the library and as Christmas approached, I offered to get out the boxes of decorations and put up their Christmas tree.
A young man was sitting at the table reading in the library and when he saw what I was doing, he yelled out, “I f&%$# hate Christmas!”
I could tell by his voice that he was angry. Very angry. I asked him why he hated it so much and he very quickly shared about some of the horrific things his dad would do every holiday to him & his siblings.
I took a deep breath and shuddered at the traumatic experiences he was so freely shouting out loud. He said it again, this time with more anger, "I hate Christmas and don’t want anything to do with it!” He pushed his chair back and jumped up from the table.
I began to silently pray as my heart raced. I did what I could to keep my cool and looked around to see if there was anyone nearby...just in case...there was no one in sight but I did have my radio on my belt..ready to hit the alarm if needed.
At that very moment, I could feel the presence of God fill the room & then the young man turned and asked me, “What would make people chop a tree down, put it in a bucket with water, stick it in their house and hang silly baubles on it? It’s stupid!” He just stood there, looking at me, waiting for an answer.
I told him that for me and my family we did not see it that way. For us, the Christmas tree was a symbol.
When we cut the tree down, we think about the tree that was used by the Roman soldiers to make a cross to execute or crucify prisoners. (That got his attention!). I spoke of the torture the soldiers used to humiliate the convicted.
He then began to ask a series of questions about the beatings and the crucifixion and wanted to know the gory details. I guess he could relate to that.
I continued to tell him that the baby, Jesus, whom we celebrate on Christmas Day, was the same Jesus that as an adult was sentenced and died on a tree so that other prisoners could be set free. "Prisoners like you and me," I gently said to him. Now he was really interested.
"You're not a prisoner. You get to go home tonight," he said. That's when I shared my own story about my abuse and addictions and my need for a Saviour.
As I spoke those words I realized that he had walked closer, grabbed a bunch of tinsel and was decorating the tree with me! Tears filled his eyes and mine as Jesus touched his heart with the truth. Then he said, "I'm sorry Miss. I didn't mean to swear..."
That young, aggressive, wounded man received a new heart that day. I assured him that he could start a new life, in Christ Jesus, and be free within...even though he was in a physical prison. Then I told him to read the Bible which was written by quite a few prisoners! He shook his head in disbelief and asked, "Why hasn't anyone else told me this before?"
A few days later, he came back to visit me. And you'll never guess what happened!
He was so excited he could hardly get the words out! He had been to court and the judge gave him a second chance. His charges were dropped and He was set free!
He reached into his pocket, and with a great big smile on his face held out this crumpled packet of Gross Gus Sherbet Wizz Fizz (yes, I still have it!).
He apologized and said he had been holding onto it for a while and was going to eat it the day he got out. It gave him something to look forward to.
He put the Wizz Fizz in my hand and hesitated to get out the words, "Miss Di.... Merry.... Christmas!"
I thanked him for such a great gift and assured him that Jesus would never leave him or forsake him...no matter how hard life gets. His response surprised me.
“Yeah! I know that! And I think this is going to be a pretty good Christmas too!”
Jesus came to save the lost. He is close to the broken-hearted. He died on that cross for ALL men, (even prisoners) so their sins would be forgiven. Jesus, what a Saviour you are!