Many people have done their best to write a report of the things that have taken place among us. 2They wrote what we have been told by those who saw these things from the beginning and who proclaimed the message. 3And so, your Excellency, because I have carefully studied all these matters from their beginning, I thought it would be good to write an orderly account for you. 4I do this so that you will know the full truth about everything which you have been taught.
During the time when Herod was king of Judea,1.5 Judea: The term here refers to the whole land of Palestine. there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife's name was Elizabeth; she also belonged to a priestly family. 6They both lived good lives in God's sight and obeyed fully all the Lord's laws and commands. 7They had no children because Elizabeth could not have any, and she and Zechariah were both very old.
8One day Zechariah was doing his work as a priest in the Temple, taking his turn in the daily service. 9According to the custom followed by the priests, he was chosen by lot to burn incense on the altar. So he went into the Temple of the Lord, 10while the crowd of people outside prayed during the hour when the incense was burnt.
11An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right of the altar where the incense was burnt. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was alarmed and felt afraid. 13But the angel said to him, “Don't be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son. You are to name him John. 14How glad and happy you will be, and how happy many others will be when he is born! 15
He will be a great man in the Lord's sight. He must not drink any wine or strong drink. From his very birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, 16and he will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17
He will go ahead of the Lord, strong and mighty like the prophet Elijah. He will bring fathers and children together again; he will turn disobedient people back to the way of thinking of the righteous; he will get the Lord's people ready for him.”
18Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know if this is so? I am an old man, and my wife is old also.”
“I am Gabriel,” the angel answered. “I stand in the presence of God, who sent me to speak to you and tell you this good news. 20But you have not believed my message, which will come true at the right time. Because you have not believed, you will be unable to speak; you will remain silent until the day my promise to you comes true.”
21In the meantime the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he was spending such a long time in the Temple. 22When he came out, he could not speak to them, and so they knew that he had seen a vision in the Temple. Unable to say a word, he made signs to them with his hands.
23When his period of service in the Temple was over, Zechariah went back home. 24Some time later his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and did not leave the house for five months. 25“Now at last the Lord has helped me,” she said. “He has taken away my public disgrace!”
26In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy God sent the angel Gabriel to a town in Galilee named Nazareth. 27
He had a message for a young woman promised in marriage to a man named Joseph, who was a descendant of King David. Her name was Mary. 28The angel came to her and said, “Peace be with you! The Lord is with you and has greatly blessed you!”
29Mary was deeply troubled by the angel's message, and she wondered what his words meant. 30The angel said to her, “Don't be afraid, Mary; God has been gracious to you. 31
You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was, 33and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end!”
34Mary said to the angel, “I am a virgin. How, then, can this be?”
35The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and God's power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God. 36Remember your relative Elizabeth. It is said that she cannot have children, but she herself is now six months pregnant, even though she is very old. 37
For there is nothing that God cannot do.”
38“I am the Lord's servant,” said Mary; “may it happen to me as you have said.” And the angel left her.
39Soon afterwards Mary got ready and hurried off to a town in the hill country of Judea. 40She went into Zechariah's house and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby moved within her. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and said in a loud voice, “You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43Why should this great thing happen to me, that my Lord's mother comes to visit me? 44For as soon as I heard your greeting, the baby within me jumped with gladness. 45How happy you are to believe that the Lord's message to you will come true!”
“My heart praises the Lord;
47my soul is glad because of God my Saviour,
for he has remembered me, his lowly servant!
From now on all people will call me happy,
49because of the great things the Mighty God has done for me.
His name is holy;
50from one generation to another
he shows mercy to those who honour him.
51He has stretched out his mighty arm
and scattered the proud with all their plans.
He has brought down mighty kings from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly.
53He has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54He has kept the promise he made to our ancestors,
and has come to the help of his servant Israel.
He has remembered to show mercy to Abraham
and to all his descendants for ever!”
56Mary stayed about three months with Elizabeth and then went back home.
57The time came for Elizabeth to have her baby, and she gave birth to a son. 58Her neighbours and relatives heard how wonderfully good the Lord had been to her, and they all rejoiced with her.
When the baby was a week old, they came to circumcise him, and they were going to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60But his mother said, “No! His name is to be John.”
61They said to her, “But you have no relatives with that name!” 62Then they made signs to his father, asking him what name he would like the boy to have.
63Zechariah asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” How surprised they all were! 64At that moment Zechariah was able to speak again, and he started praising God. 65The neighbours were all filled with fear, and the news about these things spread through all the hill country of Judea. 66Everyone who heard of it thought about it and asked, “What is this child going to be?” For it was plain that the Lord's power was upon him.
67John's father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he spoke God's message:
68“Let us praise the Lord, the God of Israel!
He has come to the help of his people and has set them free.
69He has provided for us a mighty Saviour,
a descendant of his servant David.
70He promised through his holy prophets long ago
71that he would save us from our enemies,
from the power of all those who hate us.
72He said he would show mercy to our ancestors
and remember his sacred covenant.
73-74With a solemn oath to our ancestor Abraham
he promised to rescue us from our enemies
and allow us to serve him without fear,
75so that we might be holy and righteous before him
all the days of our life.
“You, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High God.
You will go ahead of the Lord
to prepare his road for him,
77to tell his people that they will be saved
by having their sins forgiven.
78Our God is merciful and tender.
He will cause the bright dawn of salvation to rise on us
and to shine from heaven on all those who live in the dark shadow of death,
to guide our steps into the path of peace.”
80The child grew and developed in body and spirit. He lived in the desert until the day when he appeared publicly to the people of Israel.