1 Several people have set themselves to relate the events that have taken place among us, 2 as they were told by the first witnesses who later became ministers of the Word. 3 After I myself had carefully gone over the whole story from the beginning, it seemed right for me to give you, Theophilus, an orderly account, 4 so that your Excellency may know the truth of all you have been taught.
The birth of John the Baptist foretold
5 In the days of Herod, king of Ju dea, there lived a priest named Zecha riah, belonging to the priestly clan of Abiah. Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife, also belonged to a priestly family. 6 Both of them were upright in the eyes of God and lived blamelessly in accordance with all the laws and commands of the Lord, 7 but they had no child. Elizabeth could not have any and now they were both very old.
8 Now, while Zechariah and those with him were fulfilling their office, 9 it fell to him by lot, according to the custom of the priests, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 At the time of offering incense all the people were praying outside; 11 it was then that an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 On seeing the angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him.
13 But the angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John. 14 He will bring joy and gladness to you and many will rejoice at his birth.
15 This son of yours will be great in the eyes of the Lord. Listen: he shall never drink wine or strong drink, but he will be filled with holy spirit even from his mother’s womb. 16 Through him many of the people of Israel will turn to the Lord their God. 17 He himself will open the way to the Lord with the spirit and power of the pro phet Elijah; he will reconcile fathers and children, and lead the disobedient to wisdom and righteousness, in order to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly, too.” 19 The angel replied, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God, and I am the one sent to speak to you and bring you this good news! My words will come true in their time. 20 But you would not believe and now you will be silent and unable to speak until this has happened.”
21 Meanwhile the people waited for Zechariah, and they were surprised that he delayed so long in the sanctuary. 22 When he finally appeared, he could not speak to them and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He remained dumb and made signs to them.
23 When his time of service was completed, Zechariah returned home 24 and some time later Eliza beth became pregnant. For five months she kept to herself, remaining at home, and thinking, 25 “What is the Lord doing for me! This is his time for mercy and for taking away my public disgrace.”
26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent 27 to a young virgin who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
28 The angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean.
30 But the angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. 31 You shall conceive and bear a son and you shall call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the kingdom of David, his ancestor; he will rule over the people of Jacob for ever 33 and his reign shall have no end.”
34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be if I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the holy child to be born shall be called Son of God. 36 Even your relative Elizabeth is ex pecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child, and she is now in her sixth month. 37 With God nothing is im pos sible.”
38 Then Mary said, “I am the hand maid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the angel left her.
Mary visits Elizabeth
39 Mary then set out for a town in the Hills of Judah. 40 She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with holy spirit, and 42 giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 How is it that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. 45 Blessed are you who be lieved that the Lord’s word would come true!”
46 And Mary said:
46 “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
47 my spirit exults in God my savior!
48 He has looked upon his servant in her lowliness,
48 and people forever will call me blessed.
49 The Mighty One has done great things for me,
49 Holy is his Name!
50 From age to age his mercy extends
50 to those who live in his presence.
51 He has acted with power and done wonders,
51 and scattered the proud with their plans.
52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones
52 and lifted up those who are downtrodden.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
53 but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He held out his hand to Israel, his servant,
54 for he remembered his mercy,
55 even as he promised our fathers,
55 Abraham and his descendants forever.”
56 Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then re turned home.
Birth of John the Baptist
57 When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her and they rejoiced with her.
59 When on the eighth day they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father. 60 But his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” 61 They said to her, “No one in your family has that name”; 62 and they asked the father by means of signs for the name he wanted to give. 63 Zecha riah asked for a writing tablet and wrote on it, “His name is John,” and they were very surprised. 64 Immediately Ze cha riah could speak again and his first words were in praise of God.
65 A holy fear came on all in the neighborhood, and throughout the Hills of Judea the people talked about these events. 66 All who heard of it pondered in their minds and wondered, “What will this child be?” For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him.
67 Zechariah, filled with holy spirit, sang this canticle,
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
68 for he has come and redeemed his people.
69 He has raised up for us a victorious Savior
69 in the house of David his servant,
70 as he promised through his prophets of old,
71 salvation from our enemies
71 and from the hand of our foes.
72 He has shown mercy to our fathers
72 and remembered his holy cove nant,
73 the oath he swore to Abraham, our father,
74 to deliver us from the enemy,
75 that we might serve him fearlessly
75 as a holy and righteous people
75 all the days of our lives.
76 And you, my child,
76 shall be called prophet of the Most High,
76 for you shall go before the Lord
76 to prepare the way for him
77 and enable his people to know of their salvation
77 when he comes to forgive their sins.
78 This is the work of the mercy of our God,
78 who comes from on high as a rising sun
79 shining on those who live in darkness
79 and in the shadow of death,
79 and guiding our feet into the way of peace.”
80 As the child grew up, he was seen to be strong in the Spirit; he lived in the desert till the day when he appeared openly in Israel.
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