Zechariah was a priest who followed God. He and his wife Elizabeth didn’t have children, and they were past the childbearing years.
One day, Zechariah was chosen to go to the temple and burn incense at the altar. The people waited outside in prayer. Suddenly an angel appeared to the priest and said, “Zechariah, your prayers have been answered. Elizabeth will give birth to a son, and you’re to call his name John. He’ll be a joy to your heart. He’ll be great before the Lord and will prepare the way for Messiah.”
Zechariah was afraid and said, “How is that possible? We’re too old to have children.”
The angel said, “My name is Gabriel, and I stand in the presence of God. He sent me to give you this good news, and you don’t believe me. Therefore, you won’t be able to speak until what I’ve said comes true.”
The people outside were wondering what was taking the priest so long. After the angel left, Zechariah went out and stood before them. He tried to say something but found that he couldn’t talk. So the people knew he had seen a vision.
The priest went home, and soon Elizabeth was expecting a child. With joy, she secluded herself. When she had been pregnant for six months, that same angel went to a town called Nazareth.
He appeared to a young woman named Mary. She was engaged to marry a man named Joseph. Both were descendants of David.
Gabriel said to her, “Mary, you’re blessed by God.” The young woman was startled and didn’t know what to say.
The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. You’ve found favor with God. You’ll give birth to a son, and you’re to call him Jesus. He’ll be great, and there’ll be no end to his kingdom.”
Mary said, “How can this be true? I’m a virgin.”
“You’ll conceive when the Holy Spirit hovers over you. Therefore, the child will be called the Son of God! Mary, all things are possible with God. Even your cousin Elizabeth is about to have a baby in her old age.”
With that, Mary bowed her head and said, “I am the servant of the Lord. Let this happen just as you have said.”
After the angel left, Mary went to visit her cousin. As soon as Elizabeth heard her voice, her baby jumped inside her, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. She said, “Oh Mary, you’re blessed above all women, and that child you’re carrying is blessed. How am I worthy to have the mother of my Lord visit me?”
Mary stayed with this wise older woman for three months, learning from her and receiving encouragement. Afterwards, she went home to face her family.
After Mary left, Elizabeth gave birth to a baby boy. Neighbors and family came to rejoice with the old couple. They said, “We’ll call the child Zechariah, after his father.”
Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John.” “John! There is no one in your family named
John. We’ll talk to Zechariah about this.” The priest wrote on a tablet, “His name is John!” Immediately he could talk. “Oh, bless the
Lord. He is sending the Promised One who will bring us back to God.”
He picked up his son. “You’ll be a prophet of God and prepare the way for Messiah. He’ll bring us salvation and forgiveness of sin. He will bring us peace.”