Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”Exodus 3:1-4
I have a great story from the pilgrimage Rebekah and I made to the Holy Lands. We were visiting St. Catherine’s Monastery, located at the foot of Mount Sinai. It was the same day I got up at 1:00 in the morning and – with the help of a camel – climbed all the way to the summit to watch the sun rise (read about it here – Destination God).
There in the St. Catherine’s Monastery courtyard stood the traditional “Burning Bush” from Exodus, where God spoke to Moses. Legend has it that this is not just the site, but the actual shrub.
If you look carefully at my photograph from that day, you can see a fire extinguisher right beside the bush. When I saw it I laughed. Then I cringed, because we were told the reason the fire extinguisher is there is because tourists (Americans, who would have guessed!) often lit the bush on fire hoping for a photo op. Good grief!
Well this light we are talking about this first week of Advent, this animating presence of God that brings so much vitality and hope to the world, it burns a little hot sometimes. But – and this is key from the Exodus account – the bush was not consumed.
“The fire that does not destroy” certainly caught the attention of Moses. God showed him that such power can animate, illuminate, and motivate. Much of the power people seek in this world tends to destroy; but the kind of potency Advent anticipates is strength and intensity that guides, and heals, and reconciles.
Power that, rather than bringing destruction, actually works to hold this world together.
Reading the Signs:
That’s what I thought about this morning, when Max and I noticed how the Japanese maple on the corner flamed so brilliantly.
Part of Advent’s expectation and anticipation is paying attention to the signs, and I felt like this was one God placed there for me.
Typically, though, we don’t see God that clearly unless we first have our eyes open and our hearts in focus – or get up at 1:00 to climb Sinai. Shooting stars, dolphins, a baby’s first steps, a perfect sunrise, angels, burning maple bushes, God’s whispers.
Have an eye-opening day! – DEREK