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Chapter 1

1Many writers have undertaken to compose accounts of the movement which has developed among us, 2just as the original eye-witnesses who became teachers of the message have handed it down to us. 3For that reason, Theophilus, and because I have investigated it all carefully from the beginning, I have determined to write a connected account of it for Your Excellency, 4so that you may be reliably informed about the things you have been taught.

5In the days when Herod was king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah who belonged to the division of Abijah. His wife was also a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6They were both upright in the sight of God, blamelessly observing all the Lord’s commands and requirements. 7They had no children, for Elizabeth was barren; and they were both advanced in life.

8Once when he was acting as priest before God, when his division was on duty, 9 it fell to his lot, according to the priests’ practice, to go into the sanctuary of the Lord and burn the incense, 10while all the throng of people was outside, praying at the hour of the incense offering. 11And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him he was startled and overcome with fear. 13And the angel said to him,

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to name him John. 14This will bring gladness and delight to you, and many will rejoice over his birth. 15For he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He will drink no wine or strong drink, but he will be filled with the holy Spirit from his very birth, 16and he will turn many of Israel’s descendants to the Lord their God. 17He will go before him with the spirit and the power of Elijah, to reconcile fathers to their children, and to bring the disobedient back to the wisdom of upright men, to make a people perfectly ready for the Lord.”

18Zechariah said to the angel,

“How am I to know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in life.”

19The angel answered,

“I am Gabriel. I stand in the very presence of God. I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20Now you will keep silent and be unable to speak until the day when this happens, because you have not believed what I have said, for it will all be fulfilled in due time.”

21The people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondering that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. 22But when he came out he could not speak to them, and they knew that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. For his part, he kept making signs to them, and remained dumb. 23And when his period of service was over, he went back to his home.

24Soon afterward his wife Elizabeth began to expect a child, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months.

25“This is what the Lord has done for me,” she said, “now that he has deigned to remove the disgrace I have endured.”

26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a maiden there who was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The maiden’s name was Mary. 28And the angel went into the town and said to her,

“Good morning, favored woman! The Lord be with you!”

29But she was startled at what he said, and wondered what this greeting meant. 30And the angel said to her,

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have gained God’s approval. 31You are to become a mother and you will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus. 32He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his forefather David, 33and he will reign over Jacob’s house forever; his reign will have no end.”

34Mary said to the angel,

“How can this be, when I have no husband?”

35The angel answered,

“The holy Spirit will come over you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. For that reason your child will be called holy, and the Son of God. 36And your relative, Elizabeth, although she is old, is going to give birth to a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was said to be barren. 37For nothing is ever impossible for God.”

38And Mary said,

“I am the Lord’s slave. Let it be as you say.”

Then the angel left her.

39In those days Mary set out and hurried to the hill-country, to a town in Judah, 40and she went to Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the babe stirred within her. And Elizabeth was filled with the holy Spirit 42and she gave a great cry, and said,

“You are the most favored of women,

And blessed is your child!

43Who am I,

To have the mother of my Lord come to me?

44“For the moment your greeting reached my ears,

The child stirred with joy within me!

45Blessed is she who has believed,

For what the Lord has promised her will be fulfilled!”

46And Mary said,

“My heart extols the Lord,

47My spirit exults in God my Savior.

48For he has noticed his slave in her humble station,

For from this time all the ages will think me favored!

49“For the Almighty has done wonders for me,

How holy his name is!

50He shows his mercy age after age

To those who fear him.

51“He has done mighty deeds with his arm,

He has routed the proud-minded,

52He has dethroned monarchs and exalted the poor,

53He has satisfied the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty-handed.

54“He has helped his servant Israel,

Remembering his mercy,

55As he promised our forefathers

To have mercy on Abraham and his descendants forever!”

56So Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned home.

57Now the time came for Elizabeth’s child to be born, and she gave birth to a son. 58Her neighbors and relatives heard of the great mercy the Lord had shown her, and they came and congratulated her. 59On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60But his mother said,

“No! He is to be named John.”

61They said to her,

“There is no one among your relatives who bears that name.”

62But they made signs to the child’s father and asked him what he wished to have the child named. 63He asked for a writing tablet, and wrote,

“His name is John.”

64And they were all amazed. Then his voice and the use of his tongue were immediately restored, and he blessed God aloud. 65And all their neighbors were overcome with fear, and all over the hill-country of Judea all these stories were told, 66and everyone who heard them kept them in mind, and said,

“What is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

67And his father Zechariah was filled with the holy Spirit and he uttered a divine message, saying,

68“Blessings on the Lord, the God of Israel,

Because he has turned his attention to his people, and brought about their deliverance,

69And he has produced a mighty Savior for us

In the house of his servant David.

70“By the lips of his holy prophets he promised of old to do this—

71To save us from our enemies and from the hands of all who hate us,

72Thus showing mercy to our forefathers,

And keeping his sacred agreement,

73“And the oath that he swore to our forefather Abraham,

74That we should be delivered from the hands of our enemies,

75And should serve him in holiness and uprightness, unafraid,

In his own presence all our lives.

76“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High,

For you will go before the Lord to make his way ready,

77Bringing his people the knowledge of salvation

Through the forgiveness of their sins.

78“Because the heart of our God is merciful,

And so the day will dawn upon us from on high,

79To shine on men who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,

And guide our feet into the way of peace.”

80And the child grew up and became strong in the Spirit, and he lived in the desert until the day when he proclaimed himself to Israel.

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