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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve Slaughter

Christmas Eve has dawned in Bundibugyo, clouded and thick. As the daylight suffused the veil of mist on the mountains, I saw groups of young men walking briskly down the road, machetes in hand, talking loudly.  Since I'm reading Tracy Kidder's Strength in What Remains, about a young Burundian genocide survivor, I felt the chill of reality, of the potential for murder and destruction.  But these men were accompanied by cows.  And they were heading to slaughter them all around the town.  Because Christmas in Bundibugyo is a day for eating meat, Christmas Eve is a day of butchery.  When a few hundred thousand people all try to consume beef on one day, in a place without refrigeration or grocery stores, the blood-spill and dismemberment of beasts is not pretty.

But Christmas is not all pretty, either.  The passages in Isaiah 25 and 65, and Rev 21, put the future glory into the messy context of judgment.  

But you are those who forsake the LORD . . 
Therefore I will number you fort he sword,
And you shall all bow down to the slaughter,
Because when I called, you did not answer;'
When I spoke, you did not hear,
But did evil before My eyes,
And chose that in which I do not delight.
(Is 65:11, 12)

Once again, the culture of Bundibugyo provides a graphic picture.  Throughout the Old Testament, the people of Israel (and other nations) slaughtered animals, to appease the wrath of Justice, acknowledging their wrongs.  Blood had to be shed, for survival, for covering, for measuring the gravity of sin.  Until Christmas, the blood of Mary and that of her infant seeping into the blood of Easter which dripped from the cross.  Because the making of All Things New required a judgement against all things evil, a purging, a sacrifice.  Not of cows, but of God Himself.

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