Arriving in Nazareth, as we walked up the hill, we were immediately met by a sign outside the mosque declaring Islam to be the one true faith. This served as a reminder of the contemporary challenges to inter-faith dialogue. We were told, on other occasions, that the Holy Land has good relationships and regular meetings between Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders. There are many good engagements undertaken with great integrity, but all the major faiths have those who want nothing to do with anyone else. It also served as a reminder of the challenges which Jesus faced in his earthly ministry, not least when he came to Nazareth.
According to Luke, Jesus was brought up in Nazareth – though Matthew suggests that his hometown was actually Bethlehem. Walking through contemporary Nazareth, with its stalls and shops, selling the same kind of fruit and vegetables that would have been around in Jesus’ time, but also the electrical adaptors and pre-Christmas Santas of the 21st century, it was not too difficult to imagine Jesus and his family and Jesus and his disciples, walking an earlier version of these streets, looking for the things that they needed and encountering friends and acquaintances. For all of us most of life is lived in an ordinary context, our context for the moment. The question is as to how we engage with our extraordinary God in our particular context.
We all need to consider our particular calling which may, from time to time, vary. It was fascinating to look in to three 21st century carpenters’ workshops and remember how Jesus worked on the wood with his father Joseph. You might think that Jesus would have rushed into the preaching, teaching and healing ministry, that was his main calling, but that needed to wait for the right time. Patience is a good lesson to learn. There are times when we need to wait and prepare ourselves. We may not always understand God’s timing, but we can know that it is right.