A few weeks ago I was visiting the Christian Women's Club of Huntsville, Texas. I was the guest speaker for their December meeting and because their usual venue of the local country club was being renovated they decided to rent the conference room of the Texas Prison Museum. The meeting room was lovely and the ladies were very gracious and kind. There were smiles all around, good food, good music, holiday greetings, gifts and kind words.
Just a few feet away from that lovely setting was quite a different scene.
Attached to the conference room are several much larger spaces that are designed to hold artifacts, pictures, testimonies, and a replica of the "Wall". (I learned that the "Wall " is the actual prison that is located in downtown Huntsville. It houses 1700 inmates and is the only place in Texas where death row prisoners breathe their last. ) The Texas electric chair is stored in one of these adjoining rooms. It is on display for anyone to see and evidently thousands of folks stop by and visit it each year. I wondered why anyone would put the prison museum on their vacation itinerary.
Old Sparky is in semi-retirement now. The popular choice of execution these days is lethal injection. But this chair is serviced, checked, polished and kept in working order JUST IN CASE an inmate might choose this tool of justice.
Reading about capital punishment and hearing stories of horrific murders by psychopaths and evil men is one thing. I remembered John Wayne Gacey and Ted Bundy and others! To actually stand in front of this chair is spine-tingling!
Justice must be satisfied, there is no doubt about that. There is something deep within the heart of all mankind that cries out for fairness, for payment to be made, and for deserved punishment to be carried out. God Himself is the author of righteous judgement.
Visions of living, breathing human beings strapped to that wooden chair flashed through my mind. I didn't even want to think about what else flashed through those straps that held feet and hands. This hard piece of furniture shining in the spotlight had witnessed and was the cause of many deaths. Standing there and staring at it was a very sobering experience.
What a contrast of emotions! There I was happily celebrating Christmas and the life giving birth of Immanuel with those lovely ladies while just a few feet away this icon of death was given a place of honor. I was questioning their choice of venues.
Oh, my! Perhaps the true meaning of Christmas was staring back at me and I was about to miss it.
The Christ child came, lived, died and rose again so instruments such as Old Sparky might never be needed! HE came to remove the power and punishment of sin so that I and all those who believe will never have to face capital punishment in this lifetime OR the eternal death sentence delivered by the just and holy God in the hereafter.
How grateful I am that Jesus willingly came to experience the "Old Sparky" of His day. The first Christmas was the pre-requisite for the first Easter! He came to die so that I might live!
I'm thinking that the Texas Prison Museum is the perfect place to celebrate Christmas!
Maybe I'll make a trip to Hunstville for Easter, too.