Many people have attempted to write about the things that have taken place among us.
Reports of these things were handed down to us. There were people who saw these things for themselves from the beginning and then passed the word on.
I myself have carefully looked into everything from the beginning. So it seemed good also to me to write down an orderly report of exactly what happened. I am doing this for you, most excellent Theophilus.
I want you to know that the things you have been taught are true.
Herod was king of Judea. During the time he was ruling, there was a priest named Zechariah. He belonged to a group of priests named after Abijah. His wife Elizabeth also came from the family line of Aaron.
Both of them did what was right in God's eyes. They obeyed all the Lord's commandments and rules faithfully.
But they had no children, because Elizabeth was not able to have any. And they were both very old.
One day Zechariah's group was on duty. He was serving as a priest in God's temple.
He happened to be chosen, in the usual way, to go into the temple of the Lord. There he was supposed to burn incense.
The time came for this to be done. All who had gathered to worship were praying outside.
Then an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah. The angel was standing at the right side of the incense altar.
When Zechariah saw him, he was amazed and terrified.
But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zechariah. Your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will have a child. It will be a boy, and you must name him John.
He will be a joy and delight to you. His birth will make many people very glad.
He will be important in the Lord's eyes. "He must never use wine or other such drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit from the time he is born.
He will bring many of Israel's people back to the Lord their God.
And he will prepare the way for the Lord. He will have the same spirit and power that Elijah had. He will teach parents how to love their children. He will also teach people who don't obey to be wise and do what is right. In this way, he will prepare a people who are ready for the Lord."
Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man, and my wife is old too."
The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I serve God. I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.
And now you will have to be silent. You will not be able to speak until after John is born. That's because you did not believe my words. They will come true when the time is right."
During that time, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out. They wondered why he stayed in the temple so long.
When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple. They knew this because he kept motioning to them. He still could not speak.
When his time of service was over, he returned home.
After that, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant. She stayed at home for five months.
"The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days, he has been kind to me. He has taken away my shame among the people."
In the sixth month after Elizabeth had become pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee.
He was sent to a virgin. The girl was engaged to a man named Joseph. He came from the family line of David. The virgin's name was Mary.
The angel greeted her and said, "The Lord has given you special favor. He is with you."
Mary was very upset because of his words. She wondered what kind of greeting this could be.
But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary. God is very pleased with you.
You will become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make him a king like his father David of long ago.
He will rule forever over his people, who came from Jacob's family. His kingdom will never end."
"How can this happen?" Mary asked the angel. "I am a virgin."
The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come to you. The power of the Most High God will cover you. So the holy one that is born will be called the Son of God.
Your relative Elizabeth is old. And even she is going to have a child. People thought she could not have children. But she has been pregnant for six months now.
Nothing is impossible with God."
"I serve the Lord," Mary answered. "May it happen to me just as you said it would." Then the angel left her.
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in Judea's hill country.
There she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby inside her jumped. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
In a loud voice she called out, "God has blessed you more than other women. And blessed is the child you will have!
But why is God so kind to me? Why has the mother of my Lord come to me?
As soon as I heard the sound of your voice, the baby inside me jumped for joy.
You are a woman God has blessed. You have believed that what the Lord has said to you will be done!"
Mary said, "My soul gives glory to the Lord.
My spirit delights in God my Savior.
He has taken note of me even though I am not important. From now on all people will call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me. His name is holy.
He shows his mercy to those who have respect for him, from parent to child down through the years.
He has done mighty things with his arm. He has scattered those who are proud in their deepest thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones. But he has lifted up people who are not important.
He has filled those who are hungry with good things. But he has sent those who are rich away empty.
He has helped the people of Israel, who serve him. He has always remembered to be kind
to Abraham and his children down through the years. He has done it just as he said to our people of long ago."
Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months. Then she returned home.
The time came for Elizabeth to have her baby. She gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very kind to her. They shared her joy.
On the eighth day, they came to have the child circumcised. They were going to name him Zechariah, like his father.
But his mother spoke up. "No!" she said. "He must be called John."
They said to her, "No one among your relatives has that name."
Then they motioned to his father. They wanted to find out what he would like to name the child.
He asked for something to write on. Then he wrote, "His name is John." Everyone was amazed.
Right away Zechariah could speak again. His first words gave praise to God.
The neighbors were all filled with fear and wonder. All through Judea's hill country, people were talking about all these things.
Everyone who heard this wondered about it. And because the Lord was with John, they asked, "What is this child going to be?"
His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit. He prophesied,
"Give praise to the Lord, the God of Israel! He has come and set his people free.
He has acted with great power and has saved us. He did it for those who are from the family line of his servant David.
Long ago holy prophets said he would do it.
He has saved us from our enemies. We are rescued from all who hate us.
He has been kind to our people. He has remembered his holy covenant.
He made an oath to our father Abraham.
He promised to save us from our enemies, so that we could serve him without fear.
He wants us to be holy and godly as long as we live.
"And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High God. You will go ahead of the Lord to prepare the way for him.
You will tell his people how they can be saved. You will tell them that their sins can be forgiven.
All of that will happen because our God is tender and caring. His kindness will bring the rising sun to us from heaven.
It will shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death. It will guide our feet on the path of peace."
The child grew up, and his spirit became strong. He lived in the desert until he appeared openly to Israel.