This Is The Day That The Lord Has Made

Holy Sabbath to you. May God continue in the blessing of your lives as you find a place and time to set apart for you and your God.  What a beautiful morning it is here in Nazareth.  The sun is shining, the breeze is blowing and just outside my balcony was a stream of church bells tolling as if this were the last chance they were ever going to have, precisely at 7:00 am. You could not ask for a better alarm clock. I love church bells and I love them proclaiming the Good News, especially on a Sunday morning.

Today is a mix bag. We know that at 6:00 pm we will be attending the worship service at Cana Baptist Church. Some of us already anticipate this to be the highlight of the day. We want to enjoy everything else that will come with this day, but we most especially want to be ready and have the appropriate amount of energy to fully participate in the worship service.

The schedule is light this morning. We plan to take some time off in the afternoon. This will allow us to be ready for this evening’s worship. Not to mention some of us are being to show sign of wear.  An afternoon of rest just might be a good idea.

Our first stop in mid-way up the hill of Nazareth to a large stone monument to the Honor of Mary and Jesus. The Church of the Annunciation commemorates the announcement to Mary that she was to bear a child who would be the Son of God. There are some old cave-like structures that are believed to be some of the Biblical homes of the living in Nazareth in the time of Mary and Jesus’ birth. The structure we see before us is substantial…maybe even a little intimidating. You really must look past the structure to get the full meaning of what is before us. This church complex sits over and around an older church which sits over and around an even older church. There is a Wall that pretty much encases the whole complex.

On one side of the complex the art and descriptors are all about Mary and key events in her life. The opposite side lifts the name of Jesus. There is artwork lined up all along the outer wall. There is more artwork the lines the sanctuary walls of the various stages of church on all three levels. Nations from around the world have contributed these various pieces of artwork. Individually, and collectively, these pieces, each referencing Mary as seen through the eyes of that Nation, are impressive.

We continued our journey up the hill and around on the narrow, winding streets (and traffic) of Nazareth. We come upon a structure that shows three spigots for gaining access to water. This is the traditional site of the Annunciation. Scriptures tell us that an angel approached Mary at the well where she was gathering water for the day. He told her she was to be the mother to the Son of God, and he would be named Jesus. Her child would save the world. The water source has been removed, so there is no water today. It is simply a marker to help us remember and honor Mary, mother of God.

Walking around and a bit further up the hill we find yet another place some believe to be the Biblical place of the Annunciation. St Gabriel Greek Orthodox Church sits on top of an active spring that would have the well from which Mary and the whole town of Nazareth would have received their daily water. Of all the sights I find this one to be the most compelling. This may be because I appreciate the Orthodox church and the atmosphere you find in most Orthodox churches: icons, candles, aromas; each drawing you into the presence of God, Almighty.

We make our way back to the bus and drive down the hill making our way to the south edge of the city. In front of us is a large hill standing alone in all its glory. The Precipice stands a short way outside of Nazareth. Again, scripture (Luke 4:16-30) tells us that Jesus went to Nazareth. He spoke to the people in worship and told them the scriptures had been fulfilled in him. After some additional discussion, they grew angry and saw him as being blasphemous. They brought Him to the crest of the hill on which their city had been built, so that they could throw Him down from the cliff. But He passed through their midst and went on His way. Some say this all happens in the place known as the Precipice. Many others disagree simply because of the logistics of how far outside the Precipice Tel is located. The traditional outer wall of the village of Nazareth is much closer to the Church of Annunciation where a moat was known to be just outside that Wall I spoke of earlier. An angry crowd would not want to travel far with a troublesome man. It is more likely they went outside the wall and prepared to throw him down and into the moat.

We climbed the pleasant uphill hike to the top of the Precipice. Today is still a bit hazy, but clearer than yesterday. Move around the top you can see all of Nazareth and the lower lands for miles around. Our group took advantage of very few others around and sang a few hymns of beauty, creation, and God’s presence. We lifted a prayer of thanksgiving and prayed the Lord’s Prayer together. Very Cool.

This marks the end of our morning. We walked back to the bus very slowly taking in all the wonder it brought to mind. We paused a time or two to look towards Nazareth and try to spot significant markers. At the bottom of the hill is a roadside market. The vendor grabs my attention with an ice-cold glass of pomegranate juice.  That really hit the spot.

Our next adventure is lunch in the mall food court. This will be a first for me. Can’t say I have ever gone to the mall in Nazareth.  The food court offers lots of variety for those hungry to those who are not. It will offer comfort foods of home, sweets for the sweet tooth and some excellent Mediterranean delights such as Shawarma, one of my favorites.

We drove back to the hotel for a leisurely afternoon and preparations for tonight’s worship.  It has been a great day. I do not plan to take pics or do anything but worship tonight. Something I am very much looking forward to doing. I pray you find God’s blessing in your Sabbath worship, too. Amen.

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