Our Invitation to the Manger

BCM Spotlight Banner

BY AMY LINVILLE |

Idyllic winter scene

Photo by Pixabay via Pexels.com

Okay, don’t tell my husband, the Rev. Aaron Linville, but I love to sing Christmas hymns—sometimes, even during Advent. I know, I know, it’s terrible and I should respect Advent—and I do. In the past, guest writers for this blog have reflected on Advent hymns during this season, but with Christmas being tomorrow, I think it’s safe to squeeze in a reflection on a Christmas hymn. These days especially, the hope, joy, and peace offered by many Christmas hymns is irresistible. And nothing lifts my spirits, no matter the time of year, like hearing and singing my favorite Christmas hymn: Softly the Night is Sleeping (Moravian Book of Worship, 284).

Image of a boy looking hopefully up at a Christmas tree

Photo by Jeswin Thomas via Pexels.com

The slow and soft start, the sharp call to listen: “but hark!”, and belting out the refrain—it’s truly exciting to sing. It’s a roller coaster of a song telling the amazing story of Christ’s birth. It moves from a serene, almost bucolic scene with shepherds, interrupting them with a blast of beautiful bursting from the sky, bringing forth the dawn and joyous new life, and ending with an invitation to join the people and beings of all rank in glad praise.

*Whew*–I never knew a Christmas song could be exhausting, but this one really packs in a lot. There is so much descriptive language and emphatic punctuation—look at the number of exclamation points in that song! I am envious of each verse. I long for peaceful hills and music falling from the sky, crimson mornings and smiling infants, gladsome visitors and a heart of sunshine.

Despite it being Christmas, our hearts might not feel like they are made of sunshine or growing three sizes. Babies cry, mornings are cold and gray, and the noises of the busy world can drown out all the music falling from the sky. And it often seems like the earth has not seen peace since that still and silent night thousands of years ago.

Personal pain and the pain of the world can feel sharper when we are reminded of this wondrous night each year. And though for me, this song is a joyous one, I know that the dreams presented in this song and many other ones can seem out of reach. Peaceful hills and clear mornings can be infrequent and unheard of for so many today, and we can find ourselves feeling defeated when our lives don’t seem to resemble the beautiful scenes in Christmas songs.

Image of manger

Photo by Greyson Joralemon via Unsplash.com

But, as my husband always reminds me, because Jesus is born like this: of a woman and in a stable, and grew up as a human person, every aspect of our lives is blessed. When we are poor and lowly, we can still come to God, for Jesus was once poor and lowly. And that’s what I love about the last verse of this song, that we are invited into this beautiful scene. No matter who or where we are in life, whether we are fearful shepherds, confused wise men, stressed computer technicians, patient caretakers, or indecisive students, we are all invited to come to our God. We don’t have to bring a side dish or gift for Dirty Santa. We don’t have to make small talk or clean the house. We are invited to simply come to our God, and there find our own soft, sleeping night like that night so long ago.


Questions? Comments? Contact Amy Linville at Amy@MoravianBCM.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 404

Amy Linville

Amy Linville is the College Ministry Coordinator for the Moravian BCM. She spends her time outside of work taking classes to become a librarian, serving Rural Hall Moravian with her husband the Rev. Aaron Linville, and snuggling her puppy and two cats.


Requests for republishing, click here
Want to volunteer to write for us? Click here 


Follow the Moravian BCM on Social Media: 

FacebookInstagramTwitter

BCM@MCSP.org | MoravianBCM.org

Advertisements

Was That Said in Love?

BCM Spotlight Banner

BY AMY LINVILLE |

“Was that said in love?” I ask in an attempt to bring a sense of lightheartedness to the situation and cease a quarrel between two campers. I know it’s cheesy, but you can only ask them to stop and behave so many times, and it’s a long week. Most of the time, it serves only to bring laughter. But in reality, I hope that this phrase occasionally slips into the mind of the campers as they prepare for bed, reflect during small group, or play “knock-out” on the slab. And the more I hope it for the kids at camp, the more I hope this thought slips into the minds of friends, family, and myself at home.

magnifying glass

I like words. I like to analyze words, study the history of words, search for context of words, and ponder for hours over word choice. I know that most people might not spend as much energy on these pursuits as I do, but I receive a great deal of fulfillment in trying to understand from where our words come. Our words and actions are rooted in our thoughts and emotions. Each piece gives away how we think, process, and feel. The things we say and do offer glimpses into our physical, spiritual, and mental states. My husband knows that many of my words said in anger can originate in hunger (hanger is dangerous and not to be taken lightly). I know that a young camper’s tears and pleading phrases can often come from a place of fear; being away from home for the first time is scary. Perhaps those we see spreading hateful words are really confused, afraid, and maybe a little hangry. Many days, it takes effort and pause for me to ensure that my words are coming from a place of love. I have to be mindful about it.

So, what does it mean to speak, and even act, from a place of love? We all know that “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians, 4-7. NIV). This passage from the Bible is probably one of the most quoted, but I know it is not enacted nearly as frequently. To come from a place of love would require patience and a yearning to understand and listen. It would necessitate us to put aside the vanities to which we cling not out of false humility or even a sense of obligation, but from a true desire to care for our whole communities. If the things we said and did were rooted love, would we give up on others? Would we give up on ourselves?

heart tree picture

At camp this past week, we discussed at length how we reflect God’s loves in our words and deeds: feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick and imprisoned. I saw the campers reflect God’s love when they laughed with each other, cared for their bodies by going to bed when tired (my favorite thing for campers to do!), spoke kindly to each other, and respected God’s creation. I saw them trying each day to come to the world from a place of love. As the week went on, I asked fewer and fewer campers “Was that said in love?”. I heard, saw, and felt the love in their actions and words. I know it took effort for everyone to pause and work to find that place of love. It’s not easy, but Corinthians doesn’t tell us that love is easy. It tells us that love never fails. Words and actions in love, will never fail to bring us closer to God.

In today’s political, socioeconomic, church, and even weather climate (does this heat make anyone else grumpy?), it becomes ever more important to keep love at the forefront of our thoughts. As we prepare for our Southern Province Synod in less than a year, I hope we can let love guide us. We cannot always say and do the right things, but we can try each day to speak and act in love. Even on the days when we do not like others or ourselves, God has called us to love.


Questions? Comments? Contact Amy Linville at Amy@MoravianBCM.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 404

Amy Linville

Amy Linville is the Interim College Age Ministry Coordinator for the Moravian BCM. She spends her time outside of work taking classes to become a librarian, serving Rural Hall Moravian with her husband the Rev. Aaron Linville, and snuggling her puppy and two cats.