1Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, 4so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.
The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold
5When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. 6Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. 7They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.
8One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. 9As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.
11While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”
18Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”
19Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”
21Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. 22When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary.
23When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. 25“How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.28Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
29Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
34Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
35The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37For the word of God will never fail.”
38Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town 40where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. 41At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
42Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
The Magnificat: Mary’s Song of Praise
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
50He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
51His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
53He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
55For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.”
56Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.
The Birth of John the Baptist
57When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. 58And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her.
59When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!”
61“What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” 62So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. 63He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” 64Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.
65Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. 66Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.
67Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy:
68“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has visited and redeemed his people.
69He has sent us a mighty Savior
from the royal line of his servant David,
70just as he promised
through his holy prophets long ago.
71Now we will be saved from our enemies
and from all who hate us.
72He has been merciful to our ancestors
by remembering his sacred covenant--
73the covenant he swore with an oath
to our ancestor Abraham.
74We have been rescued from our enemies
so we can serve God without fear,
75in holiness and righteousness
for as long as we live.
76“And you, my little son,
will be called the prophet of the Most High,
because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
77You will tell his people how to find salvation
through forgiveness of their sins.
78Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.”
80John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.
The NEW LIVING TRANSLATION (NLT)