Some say that the historical Jesus wasn't born in December. Some don't believe he was born at all. But regardless of your beliefs or spiritual tradition, you've got to admit, if you're open to it at all, that the symbolism is pretty brilliant.
There's something about the story of the stable and the star and the simple shepherds with their flocks of sheep, that wouldn't be the same if it happened at high noon or the long days of summer. Light born in darkness cuts through to the subconscious, offering hope, and reminding us that what we shed light on, transforms all that is not light.
Twenty years ago, I lost a friend, mentor, and role model to cancer. I haven't had many role models in my life, but Reverend Jack Crandall was one of a kind. Perhaps more than anyone I've known personally, Jack made the biggest contribution to my spiritual and professional development. While his sermons could leave you speechless and his counseling skills superb, it was who he was, his Jack-ness, which made the biggest impact on me and so many others.
He often preached in a tie-dye T-shirt and Tevas, long before it was cool. In the 80's and 90's he welcomed gay, lesbian, bi, and transgender people into our church community - defending them, supporting them, and advocating for gay representation in the clergy. The Anderson Independent ran a story about our radical little church and he told me that one of the reporters asked him, "Jack, off the record, what do you think makes people gay?" And Jack replied lovingly, but without missing a beat, "God."
In the 60's he was an outspoken champion for civil rights. So much so that he once came home to a burning cross in his yard. It is said that in response he invited folks over for a weenie roast and s'mores.
Jack had an unapologetically devilish sense of humor. He once asked me, "Hey Shell, know what PMS stands for?" and before I could answer he said, "Puttin' up with men's shit." He thought it was hilarious.
Jack was completely at home with his shadow. He loved to act and was once appearing in a local theatre production of Old Man River. I asked him what part he was playing, to which he replied with a grin and his famous pipe sticking out the corner of his mouth, "A drunken lech," to which I quipped, "Ah, a real stretch for you I guess." And he just laughed.
He knew his shadow intimately and embraced it consciously. He wasn't afraid of it and therefore it wasn't running things behind the scenes. You never had to worry about it sneaking out in some perverted, sideways way, and this is why you always felt safe around him. Because he was so comfortable with his own humanness, he made you feel comfortable with yours.
Some of you have commented that my "authenticity and vulnerability" has inspired you. Well, my beloved friend Jack has alot to do with that. I was 27 years old when we met and for the next 10 years his realness freed me to be real myself.
Jack loved Christmas and could do a Christmas Eve service like nobody else. In memory of those Christmases and in the spirit of his wide-reaching love, I invite you, regardless of your spiritual beliefs or tradition, to join me, as Jack once did, for this little ritual.
This Christmas Eve, around midnight if you can, turn off the lights, go and stand at a window, preferably one from which you can see the stars, and light a candle.
No incantations are necessary. There's nothing you're supposed to do. Just stand and breathe and be present - you and your candle and the night.
Perhaps, like me, you'll think of loved ones who have passed, family relationships that are still broken or challenging, the scary state of the world and all of those who are suffering in it. Perhaps you will think of your own humanness - your failures and successes, quirks and hangups, dreams and frustrations. And perhaps you will let yourself feel whatever arises.
And if you do, when you do, just know that you're not alone. Whatever you're thinking or feeling, I'm probably feeling and thinking it too. And together we light up the darkness, our own darkness, and everyone's darkness, with our own little light of awareness. And in doing so, we are free.
This would have made Jack very happy.
Merry light-that-is-born-in-you Christmas!
Shelly (and Jack)
Heaven On Earth Farm
Specific directions provided upon scheduling or registration.
P.O. Box 1233
Pickens, SC 29671