“I love thee Lord Jesus, look down from the sky, and stay by my cradle til morning is nigh.” Martin Luther
I remember singing this line while caroling at a nursing home as a 10-year-old in a plaid dress and itchy, white tights. I felt uncomfortable and powerless as I sang to the wrinkly people. I took in their poverty and need which mirrored things inside me that I did not want to know. I sang midst smells of bleach and urine while my body told me that the Lord Jesus was the only one who had stayed by my cradle at night.
The recognition seized my heart and made it sting. My throat grew tight and my song was cut off. It was a lonely thought and yet oddly reassuring. He may have been the only one, but I was not alone. Even though I felt anxious singing that day, I found comfort in the awareness that Jesus would stand by these wrinkly cradles too.
The practice of singing Christmas hymns made room for the presence of Jesus in my 10-year- old heart. I could not have articulated the impact. Yet, I look back and see how hymns created a doorway through which Jesus found the cradle of my heart.
During Advent, I longed for community yet my heart felt swollen and sore. When I needed to know and feel known, I would sing, often alone in my bedroom. The words and songs were limited yet bathed me with holy tending. And after my solo concert, I would feel myself settle. My heart was still sore but felt known, even if just to myself.
To this day, I am regulated by embodied worship. When I am highly triggered, I sing and move until I am settled. It can’t be just any song; it must speak honestly to my state of being. When I am done, I feel like a weaned child with her mother. Secure and held.
A simple practice of toning (producing long vocal sounds) can have tangible calming effects by virtue of its auditory stimulation of the vagus nerve, which in turn causes limbic deactivation. * When I stumbled upon this fact, it spoke a truth I already knew.
God formed us in a way that when we love him, our bodies are in turn regulated by divine love.
It seems that most things God asks of us have to do with learning to love ourselves and others. I don’t believe worship is something that only comes in song. Or that the kingdom of God lacks worship, so it needs us to provide it. But instead, musical worship might be a unique and full-bodied way to breathe back to the Spirit the breath she continually breathes into us.
I am quite certain, that each of us gives that breathe back in humanity that is distinctly our own. And the Divine just happens to have a love affair with humans. The Advent season is grief and wonder-filled. May our embodied practices express both and may we find ourselves loved.