Lorenzo sat with his back up against the always cool concrete wall on his bed with his legs pulled up, his feet resting on the edge of his bed. In this v-like position he was able to hold a book with paper upon his upper legs and after two hours of drawing and redrawing his back was aching and his fingers were cramping. Still he persisted. This was, after all, his most important drawing yet. Simple, yes, but important. He looked at the pile of rejected pictures lying next to him and recalled the time when he drew his first picture or at least the first one he remembered. He was five years old and he had drawn a dog, his dog. When his mother saw it she passed it around to all her friends on their street and everyone believed he had natural talent. From that day to this he had easily drawn thousands of pictures. It was his passion and when he was drawing he felt most true to himself.
The guards were proceeding down the hall calling everyone to line up for lunch. Lorenzo reluctantly laid his paper and pencil down, stretched his legs, and got up. His stomach was growling- maybe the distraction of eating would help him to refocus when he came back on finishing the picture.
For ten years this prison had been his home. In so many ways, like so many others here, it didn’t make sense- how he got here, what led him to commit murder. The night he killed her remained a blur except for the image of her falling to the ground, fear in her eyes, looking straight at him, asking why. This was branded into his mind and his soul as a reminder of just how great a sinner he was. Even now he couldn’t answer why, and maybe that haunted him most of all. His thoughts were interrupted by his friend Mark who had just sat down next to him at the table, lunch tray in hand.
“Hey Lorenzo!” Mark said.
“Hey Mark, how’s it going?” Lorenzo replied.
“Well, another Christmas Eve together in the slammer old buddy. Let’s see, that’s six we’ve spent in here together, isn’t it?”
“Yeah- but ten total for me. Are you going to the church service tonight amigo?”
“I guess. Do you think God really wants any of us Lornenzo? Or are we just going through the motions, hoping he will glance our way occasionally. He knows we’re never getting out of here, so what is our life worth to him?”Mark looked deeply into Lorenzo’s eyes, hoping for an answer.
“I used to think that way too but recently something has been changing for me. It started with this idea for a picture of a star I’ve been drawing and although it is not coming easily, God’s using it to help me.”
“You’re having trouble drawing something? That’s hard to believe!” Mark said thinking of the many sketches of things he’d seen Lorenzo easily accomplish.
“Yes, but this one is different. More simple. I hope to have it done soon so I can make some copies to give out after tonight’s service.”
After lunch Lorenzo requested to return to his cell rather than have his time in the gym so he could finish the drawing of the star. When he asked permission at dinner to go to the library to make copies, he was finally pleased with the result. He was happy he had listened to his heart. And he would have something special to give, not only to the baby Jesus, but also to others.
Entering the room for the service Lorenzo was touched to see the number of men in attendance. The sound of Christmas music brought tears to his eyes. When they later began to sing We three Kings of Orient Are, he kept looking at his star thinking how much he felt just like those wise men, following that same star tonight. Even here, in a maximum security prison, God brought hope. Lorenzo clutched the copies of his drawing in his hand, ready to pass them out after the service. Unexpectedly the Pastor asked if anyone would like to share what God had been doing in their lives. Lorenzo’s heart began beating furiously, and he bowed his head, listening as two other men shared their stories. All of a sudden he found himself on his feet walking up to the front of the room, turning around, looking at the faces of so many whose eyes were now fixed on him. A strange calm came over him as he held up his picture of the star and began to recite from memory the scripture he had written over the very center of the picture, boldly. His voice was strong and steady as he said:
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim freedom for the captives
And release from darkness for the prisoners,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
He took a deep breath and continued.
“I used to think God didn’t care, that I’d messed up too much for him to ever forgive me and give me another chance. I was wrong. When I read this scripture from Isaiah 61 weeks ago, it blew me away. God made his good news real to me. Jesus had opened the prison for me in my heart, now I just had to walk out of it. I walked out that day, and when I did I saw the star. That’s why I drew the star as the backdrop for this scripture. Like most of you, I may always be a prisoner here to pay for what I did. But no prison can hold back a heart that has truly found the baby Jesus.”
On the way back to his seat he noticed tears rolling down many faces. When he passed out his copies later and ran out of them, one of the guards offered to go make additional copies. The pastor of the church that gave the service approached Lorenzo and asked if he could make copies to give out to his congregation on Christmas. Men hugged one another and hugged him, thanking him for the picture of that star.
Back in his cell that night, close to midnight, Lorenzo saw again the brightness of the star in his dreams. But this time the star was shining from within him, casting its light forth to his surroundings. It reached far beyond the prison walls.
On Christmas day Julie sat with her head held low barely listening to the pastor’s sermon She didn’t even know why she had come to church, just force of habit. The past year had been dismal and even now she just wanted it all to be over. She’d already written her note to say goodbye, not that anyone would miss her. In desperation she decided to get up and leave- this was too painful sitting here pretending there was hope. She was in the rear, not expecting anyone to notice as she stood up to leave. But as she got to the aisle the Pastor stopped the service and came to her, holding out a paper.
“Please take this with you as you go. God bless you.”
Feeling foolish after being made a spectacle of as she left, Julie got into her car before she looked at the picture. It was of a star, just a simple black and white sketch, and there was a passage from the Bible written over top of it. As she read she wept, and as she did the light of that star shone into her heart. Her tears left marks on the picture, which only added to the beauty of it.
Years later as she pointed to the framed picture of the star, telling her story to her oldest granddaughter, the tears came again. The star was still shining within her heart. She was glad.