My roommate, Larry and I, started our day around 5:45am so that we could watch the sun rise over the Sea of Galilee. Back home this probably would not have happened! However with the time change and not sleeping on the plane, my internal clock was off. So, I used it to my advantage and was able to wake up and take pretty amazing pictures!
The items on our agenda today were:
Mount Carmel, – The mountain top from which Elijah tested (God actually did all the work) 450 prophets of Baal in a challenge to see whose god was real: God 1 – Baal 0!!
Nazareth – saw the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation.
Cana – saw the Wedding Church at Cana from the road but was not able to stop.
Most interesting is the two distinctions between the places we saw. Caesarea and Tel Megiddo are actual ruins and archeological digs. They know this is exactly where these places are. Mount Carmel, the Church of the Annunciation, and the Wedding Church at Cana were all just best gueses. We are pretty sure that these sites are at least within a stones throw of the biblical location, but we can’t know for sure because Jesus and the disciples never stopped to lay a corner stone or marker saying “Jesus was here”. However these locations over centuries of pilgrims and attaining their own traditions and stories themselves are very established and from what I saw at the Church of the Annunciation (which competes for location with the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation just down the street) it contained some of the most beautiful frescos, paintings, icons, etc., I have ever seen.
The most powerful thing today was visiting the Church of the Annunciation. This is the location thought to be where the Arch-Angel Gabriel visited and announced to Mary that she would bear a child. This is the place where the Word became flesh. The Greek Orthodox church is situated over the original well that supplied Nazareth with fresh water at the time of Jesus. This is the well that Mary and most likely Jesus himself would have walked to in order to gather their daily water. The original water cooler gossip and information dispersing cultural activity.
To say this place was moving was an understatement. The site of the Incarnation, to be there…smelling the incense, hearing the water flowing, feeling the presence of God in your midst. While there I was thinking of the story from Luke of Mary and Gabriel, retelling in my head the prologue of John. Thinking, reflecting, praying about what it means for God to dwell among us. My humanity, our humanity, this earth, our earth sanctified, in a state of becoming and being because the Lord our God, humbled Himself taking the form of a servant…and doing that in this place, instilling the coming kingdom here in this place. It is humbling, inspiring, encouraging, and fulfilling all at the same time.
It also didn’t hurt that a wedding was about to take place in the church and the wedding party was out front taking pictures. Just an all around beautiful moment and place.