In the time of Herod king of Judea1 there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah;2 his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.
Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly.3
But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.
Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God,4
he was chosen by lot,5 according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense.6
And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.7
Then an angel8 of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.9
When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.10
But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid,11 Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.12
He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,13
for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink,14 and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit15 even from birth.16
Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God.
And he will go on before the Lord,17 in the spirit and power of Elijah,18 to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children19 and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."20
Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this?21 I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."22
The angel answered, "I am Gabriel.23 I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
And now you will be silent and not able to speak24 until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple.
When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs25 to them but remained unable to speak.
When his time of service was completed, he returned home.