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This is the title of the 1987 song by Cher; however, I came across the following poem in one of the Prison Newspapers, written by a Serving Prisoner:

If I could turn back the hands of time

I’d live my life free of all the crime
And make this world so grand and fine
And then there’d be no need for crime
For Crime’s the word that springs to mind
When most are broke and need a dime,
Because having a dime makes some things fine
And then you’ll need not commit the crime
For in the end you’ll surely do time
And all you’ll do is whinge and whine
And notice its only mugs who do time
Because if you were smart, you’d do no crime.

As I re-read the Christmas Nativity Story in the pages of the Gospels, it occurred to me, on several occasions, how ‘time’ is such a critical element in the story. Both the accounts of Elizabeth’s and Mary’s baby start with ‘when it was time’ Luke 1:57; Luke 2:6. Perhaps the most over-used phrases this year have been ‘these are unprecedented times’, and ‘times we could have done without’.
The poem by the prisoner above, strikes a chord for me as in 2020 I so wish we could ‘turn back time’. Our life and the life of so many in prison can be full of ‘If only’s’. ‘If only we had acted sooner, more decisively, more compassionately’, etc. etc.

We can’t turn back the clock – And GOD doesn’t!
In the poem by the prisoner, being involved in a life of crime was unfulfilling. But he also recognises there is a better way, a way that leads to life; not to the repeated life-destroying pattern of crime, punishment and the pain crime inflicts on others.
For Mary … the best was a manger ‘Because there was no room for them in the inn’. This was not Mary’s idea of the best, but God’s.

Maybe finally the time is right for a new beginning, not because we have a vaccine, not because some communities can start to carefully re-open, but because we have revealed to us, to all of us who have experienced lockdown this year; whether in our homes or in a prison, a Son: Immanuel, Christ with us’. The One who speaks and is light in our darkness; the One who sets us all free from whatever ‘prison’ we have experienced. Sadly, for some they feel that what is needed is an end to it all … but I think sometimes God may say, ‘No, what you really need is a new beginning’. This is certainly true for many ‘locked-down’ in our prisons.
We don’t need to ‘turn back the hands of time’, because the time for life is now. The Child has been born and the Son has been given. As the Christmas Carol reminds us, ‘Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace; Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and Life to all He brings; Risen with healing in His wings’…..  New Life and New Hope to us all!

‘But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent His Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the Law so that He might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the Law’…. Galatians 4:4 The Message.

Author Paul Emmerson

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