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Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness and came to Mount Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:1-5 nrsv)

Turn aside but not away.

Only after Moses turned aside to look more closely at the bush engulfed in flames did the voice of God speak.[1]

Turning aside, it seems, is a beautiful spiritual practice for the season of Advent. In this season of preparing for the birth of Christ, we are invited to turn aside and see all of the places God already is. 

However, it also seems there is plenty we wish to turn away from.

Sometimes, it feels as if the whole earth is on fire.

The newspapers are full of images from the wars in Ukraine and Gaza. There are other wars the papers fail to mention. Social media feeds feature faces malformed in anger as they scream across a proverbial aisle. Our homes reveal empty chairs where loved ones used to dwell. 

This Advent, I hear in this ancient story of Moses an invitation to turn aside but not away. It is an invitation to stand in front of realties engulfed in, but not consumed by, flames and remain there, turned aside, listening and waiting, until the voice of the living God speaks.

In the story of Moses, we learn the voice of God came from a bush engulfed in flames. We learn God is present even in that which burns.

I pray we are given eyes to see all the places God is present and active in the world around us, the courage to turn aside, to notice where God is, and the courage required to refuse to turn away.

In many ways, the world is on fire. And yet, this Advent, we are invited to be a people who refuse to turn away. We are invited, instead, to turn aside and look deeply, unwilling to walk away until we hear the voice of the living God, present and speaking even from the flames.

In Christ,
Bishop Regina Hassanally
Southeastern Minnesota Synod, ELCA


[1] With thanks to the curators of the app Lectio365 for sparking this idea within me.