1 Since many people have attempted to write an orderly account of the events that have transpired among us, 2 just as they were passed down to us by those who had been eyewitnesses and servants of the word from the beginning, 3 I, too, have carefully investigated everything from the beginning and have decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
5 During the reign of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both of them were righteous before God, having lived blamelessly according to all of the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7 They had no children because Elizabeth was barren and because both of them were getting old.
8 When Zechariah was serving with his division of priests in God's presence, 9 he was chosen by lot to go into the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense, according to the custom of the priests. 10 And the entire congregation of people was praying outside at the time when the incense was burned. 11 An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the incense altar. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled, and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel told him, "Stop being afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy, and many people will rejoice at his birth, 15 because he will be great in the Lord's presence. He will never drink wine or any strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring many of Israel's descendants back to the Lord their God. 17 He is the one who will go before the Lord with the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, and to prepare the people to be ready for the Lord."
18 Then Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this, since I am an old man, and my wife is getting older?"
19 The angel answered him, "I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. I have been sent to speak to you and to announce this good news to you. 20 But because you did not believe my announcement, which will be fulfilled at its proper time, you will become silent and unable to speak until the day this happens."
21 Meanwhile, the people kept waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed in the sanctuary so long. 22 But when he did come out, he was unable to speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them but remained unable to speak. 23 When the days of his service were over, he went home.
24 After this, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and remained in seclusion for five months. She said, 25 "This is what the Lord did for me when he looked favorably on me and took away my public disgrace."
26 Now in the sixth month of her pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 The angel came to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!" 29 Startled by his statement, she tried to figure out what his greeting meant. 30 Then the angel told her, "Stop being afraid, Mary, because you have found favor with God. 31 Listen! You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end."
35 The angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come over you, and the power of the Most High will surround you. Therefore, the child will be holy and will be called the Son of God.
36 And listen! Elizabeth, your relative, has herself conceived a son in her old age, this woman who was rumored to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 Nothing is impossible with respect to any of God's promises."
38 Then Mary said, "Truly I am the Lord's servant. Let everything you have said happen to me." Then the angel left her.
39 Later on, Mary set out for a Judean city in the hill country. 40 She went into Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby jumped in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and she loudly exclaimed, "How blessed are you among women, and how blessed is the infant in your womb!
43 Why should this happen to me, to have the mother of my Lord visit me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 How blessed is this woman for believing that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled!"
46 Then Mary said, "My soul praises the greatness of the Lord! 47 My spirit exults in God, my Savior, 48 because he has looked favorably on his humble servant. From now on, all generations will call me blessed, 49 because the Almighty has done great things for me. His name is holy. 50 His mercy lasts from generation to generation for those who fear him. 51 He displayed his mighty power with his arm. He scattered people who were proud in mind and heart. 52 He pulled powerful rulers from their thrones and lifted up humble people. 53 He filled hungry people with good things and sent rich people away with nothing. 54 He helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors to Abraham and his descendants forever."
56 Now 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 shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
59 On the eighth day they went to circumcise the child. They were going to name him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother said, "Absolutely not! He must be named John."
61 Their friends told her, "None of your relatives has that name." 62 So they motioned to the baby's father to see what he wanted to name him. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, "His name is John." And everyone was amazed. 64 Suddenly, Zechariah could open his mouth, his tongue was set free, and he began to speak and to praise God. 65 Fear came over all their neighbors, and throughout the hill country of Judea all these things were being discussed. 66 Everyone who heard about it kept thinking what had happened and asked, "What will this child become?" because it was obvious that the hand of the Lord was with him.
68 "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel! He has taken care of his people and has set them free. 69 He has raised up a mighty Savior for us from the family of his servant David, 70 just as he promised long ago through the mouth of his holy prophets 71 that he would save us from our enemies and from the grip of all who hate us. 72 He has shown mercy to our ancestors and remembered his holy covenant, 73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham. 74 He granted us deliverance from our enemies' grip so that we could serve him without fear 75 and be holy and righteous before him all of our days. 76 And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, because you will go ahead of the Lord to prepare his way 77 and to give his people knowledge of salvation through forgiveness of their sins. 78 Because of the tender mercy of our God, his light from on high has visited us, 79 to shine on those who sit in darkness and in death's shadow, and to guide our feet into the way of peace."