1 Many have attempted to write about what had taken place among us.
2 They received their information from those who had been eyewitnesses and servants of God's word from the beginning, and they passed it on to us.
3 I, too, have followed everything closely from the beginning. So I thought it would be a good idea to write an orderly account for Your Excellency, Theophilus.
4 In this way you will know that what you've been told is true.
5 When Herod was king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the division of priests named after Abijah. Zechariah's wife Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron.
6 Zechariah and Elizabeth had God's approval. They followed all the Lord's commands and regulations perfectly.
7 Yet, they never had any children because Elizabeth couldn't become pregnant. Both of them were too old to have children.
8 Zechariah was on duty with his division of priests. As he served in God's presence,
9 he was chosen by priestly custom to go into the Lord's temple to burn incense.
10 All the people were praying outside while he was burning incense.
11 Then, to the right of the incense altar, an angel of the Lord appeared to him.
12 Zechariah was troubled and overcome with fear.
13 The angel said to him, "Don't be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife Elizabeth will have a son, and you will name him John.
14 He will be your pride and joy, and many people will be glad that he was born.
15 As far as the Lord is concerned, he will be a great man. He will never drink wine or any other liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.
16 He will bring many people in Israel back to the Lord their God.
17 He will go ahead of the Lord with the spirit and power that Elijah had. He will change parents' attitudes toward their children. He will change disobedient people so that they will accept the wisdom of those who have God's approval. In this way he will prepare the people for their Lord."
18 Zechariah said to the angel, "What proof is there for this? I'm an old man, and my wife is beyond her childbearing years."
19 The angel answered him, "I'm Gabriel! I stand in God's presence. God sent me to tell you this good news.
20 But because you didn't believe what I said, you will be unable to talk until the day this happens. Everything will come true at the right time."
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah. They were amazed that he was staying in the temple so long.
22 When he did come out, he was unable to speak to them. So they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. He motioned to them but remained unable to talk.
23 When the days of his service were over, he went home.
24 Later, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and didn't go out in public for five months. She said,
25 "The Lord has done this for me now. He has removed my public disgrace."
26 Six months after Elizabeth had become pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee.
27 The angel went to a virgin promised in marriage to a descendant of David named Joseph. The virgin's name was Mary.
28 When the angel entered her home, he greeted her and said, "You are favored by the Lord! The Lord is with you."
29 She was startled by what the angel said and tried to figure out what this greeting meant.
30 The angel told her, "Don't be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God.
31 You will become pregnant, give birth to a son, and name him Jesus.
32 He will be a great man and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.
33 Your son will be king of Jacob's people forever, and his kingdom will never end."
34 Mary asked the angel, "How can this be? I've never had sexual intercourse."
35 The angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come to you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy child developing inside you will be called the Son of God.
36 "Elizabeth, your relative, is six months pregnant with a son in her old age. People said she couldn't have a child.
37 But nothing is impossible for God."
38 Mary answered, "I am the Lord's servant. Let everything you've said happen to me." Then the angel left her.
39 Soon afterward, Mary hurried to a city in the mountain region of Judah.
40 She entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth.
41 When Elizabeth heard the greeting, she felt the baby kick. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
42 She said in a loud voice, "You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the child that you will have.
43 I feel blessed that the mother of my Lord is visiting me.
44 As soon as I heard your greeting, I felt the baby jump for joy.
45 You are blessed for believing that the Lord would keep his promise to you."
46 Mary said, "My soul praises the Lord's greatness!
47 My spirit finds its joy in God, my Savior,
48 because he has looked favorably on me, his humble servant. "From now on, all people will call me blessed
49 because the Almighty has done great things to me. His name is holy.
50 For those who fear him, his mercy lasts throughout every generation.
51 "He displayed his mighty power. He scattered those who think too highly of themselves.
52 He pulled strong rulers from their thrones. He honored humble people.
53 He fed hungry people with good food. He sent rich people away with nothing.
54 "He remembered to help his servant Israel forever.
55 This is the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants."
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.
57 When the time came for Elizabeth to have her child, she gave birth to a son.
58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very kind to her, and they shared her joy.
59 When the child was eight days old, they went to the temple to circumcise him. They were going to name him Zechariah after his father.
60 But his mother spoke up, "Absolutely not! His name will be John."
61 Their friends said to her, "But you don't have any relatives with that name."
62 So they motioned to the baby's father to see what he wanted to name the child.
63 Zechariah asked for a writing tablet and wrote, "His name is John." Everyone was amazed.
64 Suddenly, Zechariah was able to speak, and he began to praise God.
65 All their neighbors were filled with awe. Throughout the mountain region of Judea, people talked about everything that had happened.
66 Everyone who heard about it seriously thought it over and asked, "What does the future hold for this child?" It was clear that the Lord was with him.
67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied,
68 "Praise the Lord God of Israel! He has come to take care of his people and to set them free.
69 He has raised up a mighty Savior for us in the family of his servant David.
70 He made this promise through his holy prophets long ago.
71 He promised to save us from our enemies and from the power of all who hate us.
72 He has shown his mercy to our ancestors and remembered his holy promise,
73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham.
74 He promised to rescue us from our enemies' power so that we could serve him without fear
75 by being holy and honorable as long as we live.
76 "You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High. You will go ahead of the Lord to prepare his way.
77 You will make his people know that they can be saved through the forgiveness of their sins.
78 A new day will dawn on us from above because our God is loving and merciful.
79 He will give light to those who live in the dark and in death's shadow. He will guide us into the way of peace."
80 The child John grew and became spiritually strong. He lived in the desert until the day he appeared to the people of Israel.
GOD'S WORD® is a copyrighted work of God's Word to the Nations. Quotations are used by permission. Copyright 1995 by God's Word to the Nations. All rights reserved.