During the rule of King Herod of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah. His wife Elizabeth was a descendant of Aaron.
They were both righteous before God, blameless in their observance of all the Lord's commandments and regulations.
They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to become pregnant and they both were very old.
One day Zechariah was serving as a priest before God because his priestly division was on duty.
Following the customs of priestly service, he was chosen by lottery to go into the Lord's sanctuary and burn incense.
All the people who gathered to worship were praying outside during this hour of incense offering.
An angel from the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.
When Zechariah saw the angel, he was startled and overcome with fear.
The angel said, "Don't be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayers have been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to your son and you must name him John.
He will be a joy and delight to you, and many people will rejoice at his birth,
for he will be great in the Lord's eyes. He must not drink wine and liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth.
He will bring many Israelites back to the Lord their God.
He will go forth before the Lord, equipped with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will turn the hearts of fathers back to their children, and he will turn the disobedient to righteous patterns of thinking. He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
Zechariah said to the angel, "How can I be sure of this? My wife and I are very old."
The angel replied, "I am Gabriel. I stand in God's presence. I was sent to speak to you and to bring this good news to you.
Know this: What I have spoken will come true at the proper time. But because you didn't believe, you will remain silent, unable to speak until the day when these things happen."
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they wondered why he was in the sanctuary for such a long time.
When he came out, he was unable to speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he gestured to them and couldn't speak.
When he completed the days of his priestly service, he returned home.
Afterward, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant. She kept to herself for five months, saying,
"This is the Lord's doing. He has shown his favor to me by removing my disgrace among other people."