Open your mind and heart as you read the passage of Scripture aloud and then again quietly to yourself. Listen for God’s word to you.
Ein Kerem is situated in the hilly neighbourhood of Jerusalem at an altitude of 650 metres. It is about 150 kilometres from Nazareth so was a lengthy journey for Mary to make. With both Elizabeth and Mary expecting miracle babies, it was not unreasonable for Mary to travel to visit her cousin who would understand her situation better than anyone else. It would also have been a place for Mary to go where she would not have to face the questioning and accusing stares of her friends and family as her pregnancy advanced. Elizabeth had no doubt in her mind that Mary’s story was true for her unborn baby recognized and responded to Jesus as soon as the two women met.
Mary’s song has many references to the Old Testament, indicating that she was well versed in the Hebrew Scriptures. She praised God in one of the most beautiful songs ever sung, acknowledging her need for salvation, and praising Him for the way He had blessed her.
The village of Ein Kerem has a strong spring which has been the reason people settled in the area. There is evidence of people living there since the Bronze Age. From the 14th century, Christian tradition holds that Mary drank from this spring during her visit to her cousin. The settlement was mentioned by the prophet Jeremiah (6:1) and by the author of the book of Nehemiah (3:14) when it is called Beth HaKerem (the house of the vineyard).
Tradition holds that Elizabeth and Zachariah lived in the town. It is not far from Jerusalem and Zechariah would have been able to walk to the Temple Mount to perform his duties as a priest.
The Crusaders built a church in the village, commemorating John the Baptist. This was rebuilt in the 17th century by the Franciscans and still exists today. Over the years, the village became predominantly Muslim. Whilst it is now incorporated in the city of Jerusalem it still maintains its identity as a charming hillside village. There are two churches on either side of the valley. The one commemorates the birth of John the Baptist. This was completed in 1939 over a previous church which, according to tradition, covered the cave purported to be John’s birth place. The other is the Church of the Visitation, (built in 1955 on top of ancient church ruins) which commemorates the visit of Mary to Elizabeth. The area around the village is hilly and has many trees, all of which have been planted by hand. It has become a centre for arts and crafts, making it appealing to tourists from all around the world.
Who is the person you confide in? Why are they so special to you? Have you told them? Pray for them today.
Who do you know who always lifts your spirit when you see them? Why do they make you feel happy? Have you told them? Pray for them too.
Spend some time praising God today for His presence in your life and for His gift of salvation.
How are you aware of God’s grace today in your life? Where do you need an ‘extra helping’ of His grace? Tell Him about it and praise Him for His gift of grace today.
Sometime over the holiday write a note or a message to those whom you have named this week in your meditations and tell them what they mean to you. Pray for them again – and for all those whom you know who could use a friend themselves. What is God saying to you about these people?