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Sunday, December 21, 2008

On Holiday Feasting

For the average person, Christmas in Bundibugyo is synonymous with a large family meal, a day in which everyone puts on their best outfit (and in many cases the one set of new clothes for the year), parades to church, then retires to their home compound to eat meat. Yesterday in church a young Bible-school student railed against this "materialism", in a very discouraging and non-Gospel-giving sermon, no doubt a sincere effort to combat Christmas heresy but in the process completely missing the point. Sigh. But ironically, the service also included the Lord's Supper, a feast. And in reality, Christmas was first celebrated as a feast day by the early church, and the deepest meaning points to the final feast of the Kingdom, the Isaiah 25 banquet of good wines and juicy portions spread upon the mountain of God.

Last night we gathered as a team for our fourth Advent Sunday, on which we traditionally hold a Norwegian-inspired White Dinner. The kids cut out dozens of snow flakes and hung them from the ceiling, we rearranged the furniture to spread a long table in the front room by the tree, and everyone contributed monochromatic dishes (white fish, rice, potatoes, cabbage salad, rolls, fruit salad with cream, and this year Heidi's innovation cold cucumber-yogurt soup as a starter!). I make a traditional Scandanavian potato cake that is rolled in butter and sugar, called lefsa . . . in spite of the high stack they were all devoured. We began with an ancient prayer about Christ's feast-day, and after dinner moved outside to the candle-lit porch to light our advent wreath the final time. We traced Scripture passages from the Garden in Genesis, to exile, Egypt, the Promised Land, exile in Babylon again, the hope of the Messiah, Immanuel, the Word becoming Flesh, the Bread of Life, the promised Rest, to consider the fact that the longing for home is an integral part of the Christmas story. We are in exile, in the midst of the battle of Rev 12, the baby is born but the dragon remains at large, we are in the wilderness but with the Presence of God through his body and blood giving us strength to press on. And our fellowship and feasting pictures the end of the story, Rev 21 and 22, when we will finally eat of the healing fruit of the tree of life and finally rest in our real home, the city of God, where He is light and Presence. So nights of candlelight and friendship and family and food come as reminders of our Edenic roots and our Mountain of the Kingdom destination, waypoints in celebration of our history as well as sings of our hope.

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