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Christmas in Bethlehem
Ancient Nazareth in the Holy Land
God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee." (Luke 1:26)
Nazareth was a small insignificant village in the Galilee, situated in the Galilean hills overloooking the Jezreel Valley.
According to Luke 1:26-33, God sent the angel Gabriel, with a lily in his hand, to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! . . Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus."
The traditional setting for the event in Luke 1:26-28 is known as the Annunciation and is the spring where Mary went to fetch water. Today the spring flows into a well (known as Mary's Well) in the crypt of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Gabriel in Nazareth that is over 800 years old. In addition to the Church of St. Gabriel, the Basilica of the Annunciation, which crowns the city from almost every direction ialso honors the annunciation. A much newer church, this historical landmark sits on top of ancient remains including an ancient synagague, caves and a 5th century church. A Greek inscription scratched on the base of a column shows the worlds "Hail Mary" and is the oldest inscription of its kind every discovered.
The Grotto of the Annunciation is also situated within the the Church and is where many believe Mary received Gabriel. the Roman Catholic parish church is situated on the second floor of this building and is adorned with mosics and numerous deptions of Mary that were contributed by Christian communities around the world.
Archeological evidence indicates it was an agricultural village of only a few dozen families. This may explain why there are no earlier references, and why it was not included among the 45 cities of the Galilee listed by Josephus, nor in the 63 cities of the Galilee mentioned in the Talmud. It would also explain the seeming astonishment of Nathanael of Cana, who asks the Apostle Philip if anything good can come from such an insignificant hamlet (John 1:46).
Nazareth offers numerous points of interest including:
Nazareth Village - a recreated 1st century farm and Galilean village displaying life as it was or might have been 2,000 years ago. Affiliated with the University of the Holy Land, Nazareth Village gives a sense to the people and day to day life of the 1st century such as the stone doorways, various trades, housework, smell of the oil lamps, hand sewn caves and more.
St. Gabriel Church - Mary's Well - is situated in the center of Nazareth and is possibly the spot where Jesus and Mary might have come to draw water and drink from the well. Near the well is the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Gabriel that sits above an ancient spring where water is still piped in. Visitors from all over the world come to the church in order to drink from the water, considered holy.
St. Joseph Church - located opposite the Church of the Annunciation it lies over a cave, consider to be thhe site of Joseph's carpentry workshop and possibly the home of Jesus and his family. The present church was built in 1914 and in its crypt are remnants from Byzantine and Crusader churches and underneath the crypt is a water cistern, a finding that further gives credences to the ancient village and lifestyle of 1st century Nazareth.
Other nearby sites worthy of visiting include the Mount of Precipice, the site where Jesus was thrown off the clifftop but later reappeared at the other side of the Jezreel Valley, atop Mt. Tabor. Cana, the site of Jesus's first miracle where he turned water into wine, is located approximately 15 minutes north of Nazareth and Nazareth Village is a highly recommended outing as well enabling visitors a hands on view of life in the first century.
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