“Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” (Exodus 3:3)
Sunday starts the season of Advent and I realize we don’t typically associate this season with Moses, but the story from Exodus 3 captures the spirit of Advent for me. After killing an Egyptian soldier, Moses fled Pharaoh and went to the land of Midian where he started his life over. One day he saw a bush burning on the mountainside. The sight was strange to be sure, but Moses must have sensed a larger meaning in the sign, maybe something spiritual. So he said, “I must turn aside and investigate.” (RSV-Rob’s Standard Version)
Advent is a time for turning aside--turning aside from busy routines, boring routines, the news, attitudes that need to change, behaviors that need to change--and listening for God. It’s easy to march through life-giving little attention to the spiritual and the ways God’s appears in interesting sights, but sights that hold little more than interest unless we turn aside to investigate their meaning. Sometimes the strange sighting comes through a book we read that touches on matters inside of us. Sometimes it is the feeling of looking at the night sky and wondering if we are missing the beauty of life as life moves faster and wondering what our lives are really about. Sometimes it’s a sermon or spiritual song or experience in a small group that leaves us walking away saying, “Hmmm.”
If I were to translate what Advent means to me it’s the phrase, “Not so fast.” Slow down. Explore the signs and voices we see and hear long enough to consider if God is in them? What might God want to say to me right now? What does God want to give me I’m too busy or preoccupied to receive? What opinions do I firmly hold that God might want to ask, “Can we talk about that?”
Advent invites inquiry. Inquiry is one of the most beloved traits in the spiritual life. It is a willingness to explore our lives and say, “I’m open to learning.”
In reading this week Richard Rohr’s The Wisdom Pattern, he shared how sometimes after a lecture a person might come up and say, “I disagree with you about that.” It often leads to him (Rohr) being defensive and seldom leads to deeper knowing. However, there are many times people say to him, “I’d like to better understand something you said.” Rohr commented that such an openness to listen and not declare usually leads to them having a deeper appreciation of each other and a better understanding of their own opinions which often shift, even if slightly, as a result.
That’s what I call an Advent experience. May we have many of them this month.