Look! Traveling Baby Jesus found his mama!

Boy, did he ever. During our first day of our pilgrimage in Israel, we hung out with a whole legion of Marys in his hometown, Nazareth. (Hang with me and you’ll see what I mean.) But first we did a tour of the town where he and Joseph probably worked, nearby Sepphoris.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Since I’m using these blog posts to back up the memories of my own feeble mind, I’m going to add in other assorted fascinating/weird details I want to remember.

Like where we spent our first week, in this calm, quiet, lovely home base on the sea of Galilee, the Pilgerhaus. The Pilgerhaus is a facility for pilgrims in Tabgha, Israel, run by the German Benedictines. We slept here and ate breakfast and dinner here each night. And every afternoon, when we returned from our sightseeing, we got to sit out on the courtyard and enjoy this view of the Galilee.

Not only is it a lovely spot to rest and reflect; it’s also within walking distance to the traditional sites (and the churches that celebrate them) of where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, the Sermon on the Mount, and where Jesus served breakfast on the beach to the disciples after his resurrection and  commissioned Peter as the head of the church.

One of the best things about staying at the Pilgerhaus for me was the walking trail that skirts the water. Besides having families of hyraxes who hang out on rocks and teach pilgrims what it means to relax, the trail had beautiful, bizarre banyan trees. Do you know about banyans?

Traveling Baby Jesus just couldn’t help but snuggle into all those tight trunk crevices, nestling into all that God-given life. You may already know that banyans are a weird kind of fig that begins when its seed germinates in a crevice of a host tree. Then they go crazy and grow roots down toward the ground, enveloping the host. Amazing! Also, there’s this bizarre relationship that they have with fig wasps, which pollinate them while they supply shelter and food. But you didn’t come here for Making It Grow. And I’m no tree or wasp expert so let’s move on.

I’m certainly not an Israel pilgrimage expert either, but I can share what I found there.

And our first day, I found some incredible things.

Back in Jesus’s time, Nazareth was a small farming village and Sepphoris (about 8 miles away) was a bustling city. Now it’s all upside down. Nazareth is the big city, while Sepphoris is an archeological site.

We visited Sepphoris first, where we could see the ruts from the chariots in the stone roads, and beautiful ancient mosaics, like the Mona Lisa of the Galilee.

Then we went to Nazareth.

The Marys were waiting there for us, and so were these Easter Eggs.

Our first stop in Nazareth was at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, which is built over Mary’s well. The angel Gabriel was said to have appeared to Mary when she was at the well, and there was only one well at this small farming village of Nazareth, so this is it.

You can imagine that tons of people from all over the world come to see this place, where Mary first learned she would bear the son of God.

Our next site was the Roman Catholic Church of Annunciation, which was built over the traditional site of Mary’s home.

But what I really loved about this church was the collection of Annunciation mosaics donated from all over the world. I LOVE that we humans long to see Jesus (and servants of God, like Mary or any of the disciples) as ourselves- looking like us and dressing like we dress. We are made in God’s image, and maybe to understand that, we make God in our image. I have a feeling that Jesus, who wants to be close to us and calls us to put ourselves in each other’s shoes, would be okay with that.

So I give you these Marys.

Those are from Japan and from France and from Mexico.

To tell you the truth, I was kind of bumfuzzled when I saw the one from the USA. But the more I stared at it, the more I liked it.

Now I love it.

This Mary looks STRONG and full of God.

She’s the kind of Mary who could say,

My soul glorifies the Lord
 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…
 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.

As we focused on Mary and her bravery to respond to God’s call, I thought about what God might be preparing in me. It’s a good question to ask. What is God preparing in you? Can we be strong and full of God?

More soon. Thanks for letting me share!