David Russell Mosley
17 December 2015
The Edge of Elfland
Hudson, New Hampshire
Dear Friends and Family,
So the other day I was looking for a short kids movie to watch with my sons on Netflix. The featured video was the Kung Fu Panda Holiday. Since it featured all the original cast, and I happen to like the first two Kung Fun Panda movies. Any way, to give you the briefest of synopses: Po (the panda and Dragon Warrior, read really important kung fu person) will be hosting the annual winter, undefined holiday feast at the Jade Palace (place where all the kung fu masters we met in the first movie live). This feast is highbrow. Elegant is the word of the day. Every hand gesture Po makes has meaning. Contrasted with this is the Christmas party Po’s adopted father (a goose) holds at his restaurant. This party couldn’t be more common (as Shifu says). Po feels torn in two. Should he take up the responsibility, and honor, and serve as host at the Jade Palace, or serve noodle soup with his father and their friends from the village. This is the dilemma. Should Po participate in the High or the Low? The answer, in the end, is the low, the common. Here all are welcome. The kung fu master and the low slinger of noodle soup. While cute and adorable and prioritizing family, I think the answer is a bit flawed.
In Christmas particularly do we have a coming together of the High and the Low. Although I think this only possible when we have a church celebration of the Nativity on the 25 of December. Let me explain: Particularly in a high church “style,” but ultimately any time we gather to worship, we experience something of the high. We bring ourselves in a corporate setting into the presence of God (not that God is ever not present, but in worship, in liturgy, we have the opportunity to bring time into eternity). In this sense nothing could be higher. When placed within the trappings of a high mass this becomes even more evident.
And yet a proper celebration of Christmas does not end with a church service. A celebration of the birth of Christ is not complete without feasting with one’s family and friends. Good food, games, and traditional folk songs, along with generous amounts of wine, beer, and spirits. Nothing could be more low, more common. We join in our homes, however “homely” and share in life together: we laugh, we fight, we sing. These are things common to all people. And they are beautiful in their lowness.
Christmas, in fact all of life, requires both the high and the low. I’m reminded of a story told to me by one of my PhD supervisors. He had been tasked to deliver a homily at the wedding for the child of a friend and mentor. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, was performing the actual sacrament. As the stood on the lawn outside the church, the bride along with her family and other members of the wedding party were paraded through the village. After the service, at the reception, the father of the bride gave a long and rather theological speech. When he finished, the father of the groom stood up, noticed the rather highbrow nature of things up to this point and so led the whole reception in singing an old folk song. Everyone joined in, even the father of the bride with gusto. This is a picture of what I’m talking about, the wedding of the high and the low. Both are necessary for a full life and make up the proper celebration of all holidays, Christmas not the least.
So, this Christmas, let me encourage you to seek the high and the low. By all means enjoy time with your family and the giving of gifts, enjoy your family traditions, But also make sure you enter into the presence of God. Enter into the throne room of God by entering into corporate worship with your brothers and sisters in Christ. We must keep the Mass in Christmas as well as the feast in the Feast of the Nativity.
Until then, enjoy Advent and prepare yourselves for the coming of Christ.