Dear Theophilus

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Dear Theophilus

  • Many people have done their best to write a report of the things that have taken place among us.
  • They wrote what we have been told by those who saw these things from the beginning and who proclaimed the message.
  • And so, your Excellency, because I have carefully studied all these matters from their beginning, I thought it would be good to write an orderly account for you.
  • I do this so that you will know the full truth about everything which you have been taught. The Birth of John the Baptist is Announced
  • During the time when Herod was king of Judaea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife's name was Elizabeth; she also belonged to a priestly family.
  • They both lived good lives in God's sight and obeyed fully all the Lord's laws and commands.
  • They had no children because Elizabeth could not have any, and she and Zechariah were both very old.
  • One day Zechariah was doing his work as a priest in the Temple, taking his turn in the daily service.
  • According to the custom followed by the priests, he was chosen by lot to burn incense on the altar. So he went into the Temple of the Lord.
  • while the crowd of people outside prayed during the hour when the incense was burnt.
  • 11. An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right of the altar where the incense was burnt.
  • When Zechariah saw him, he was alarmed and felt afraid.
  • But the angel said to him, "Don't be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son. You are to name him John.
  • How glad and happy you will be, and how happy many others will be when he is born!
  • He will be a great man in the Lord's sight. He must not drink any wine or strong drink. From his very birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit,
  • And he will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.
  • He will go ahead of the Lord, strong and mighty like the prophet Elijah. He will bring fathers and children together again; he will turn disobedient people back to the way of thinking of the righteous; he will get the Lord's people ready for him."
  • Zechariah said to the angel, "How shall I know if this is so? I am an old man, and my wife is old also."
  • "I am Gabriel," the angel answered. "I stand in the presence of God, who sent me to speak to you and tell you this good news.
  • But you have not believed my message, which will come true at the right time. Because you have not believed, you will be unable to speak; you will remain silent until the day my promise to you comes true."
  • In the meantime the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he was spending such a long time in the Temple.
  • When he came out, he could not speak to them, and so they knew that he had seen a vision in the Temple. Unable to say a word, he made signs to them with his hands.
  • When his period of service in the Temple was over, Zechariah went back home.
  • Some time later his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and did not leave the house for five months.
  • "Now at last the Lord has helped me," she said. "He has taken away my public disgrace!"

Judaea : The term here refers to the whole land of Palestine

The Birth of Jesus is Announced

  • In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy God sent the angel Gabriel to a town in Galilee named Nazareth.
  • He had a message for a girl promised in marriage to a man named Joseph, who was a descendant of King David. The girl's name was Mary.
  • The angel came to her and said, "Peace be with you! The Lord is with you and has greatly blessed you!"
  • Mary was deeply troubled by the angel's message, and she wondered what his words meant.
  • The angel said to her, "Don't be afraid, Mary; God has been gracious to you.
  • You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will 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, as his ancestor David was,
  • and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob for ever; his kingdom will never end!"
  • Mary said to the angel, "I am a virgin. How, then, can this be?"
  • The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come to you, and God's power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God.
  • Remember your relative Elizabeth. It is said that she cannot have children, but she herself is now six months pregnant, even though she is very old.
  • For there is nothing that God cannot do.
  • "I am the Lord's servant," said Mary; "may it happen to me as you have said." And the angel left her.

Mary Visits Elizabeth

  • Soon afterwards Mary got ready and hurried off to a town in the hill-country of Judaea.
  • She went into Zechariah's house and greeted Elizabeth.
  • When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby moved within her. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit
  • And said in a loud voice, "You are the most blessed of all women, and blessed is the child you will bear!
  • Why should this great thing happen to me, that my Lord's mother comes to visit me?
  • For as soon as I heard your greeting, the baby within me jumped with gladness.
  • How happy you are to believe that the Lord's message to you will come true!"

Mary's Song of Praise

  • Mary said, "My heart praises the Lord;
  • My soul is glad because of God my Saviour,
  • For he has remembered me, his lowly servant! From now on all people will call me happy,
  • Because of the great things the Mighty God has done for me. His name is holy;
  • From one generation to another he shows mercy to those who honour him.
  • He has stretched out his mighty arm and scattered the proud with all their plans.
  • He has brought down mighty kings from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.
  • He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away with empty hands.
  • He has kept the promise he made to our ancestors, and has come to the help of his servant Israel.
  • He has remembered to show mercy to Abraham and to all his descendants for ever!"
  • Mary stayed about three months with Elizabeth and then went back home.

The Birth of John the Baptist

  • The time came for Elizabeth to have her baby, and she gave birth to a son.
  • Her neighbours and relatives heard how wonderfully good the Lord had been to her, and they all rejoiced with her.
  • When the baby was a week old, they came to circumcise him, and they were going to name him Zechariah, after his father.
  • But his mother said, "No! His name is to be John."
  • They said to her, "But you have no relatives with that name!"
  • Then they made signs to his father, asking him what name he would like the boy to have.
  • Zechariah asked for a writing tablet and wrote, "His name is John." How surprised they all were!
  • At that moment Zechariah was able to speak again, and he started praising God.
  • The neighbours were all filled with fear, and the news about these things spread through all the hill-country of Judaea.
  • Everyone who heard of it thought about it and asked, "What is this child going to be?" For it was plain that the Lord's power was upon him.

Zachary's Prophecy

  • John's father Zechariah was filled with the Hold Spirit, and he spoke God's message:
  • "Let us praise the Lord, the God of Israel! He has come to the help of his people and has set them free.
  • He has provided for us a mighty Saviour, a descendant of his servant David.
  • He promised through his holy prophets long ago
  • That he would save us from our enemies, from the power of all those who hate us.
  • He said he would show mercy to our ancestors and remember his sacred covenant.
  • With a solemn oath to our ancestor Abraham he promised to rescue us from our enemies and allow us to serve him without fear,
  • So that we might be holy and righteous before him all the days of our life.
  • "You, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High God. You will go ahead of the Lord to prepare his road for him,
  • To tell his people that they will be saved by having their sins forgiven.
  • Our God is merciful and tender. He will cause the bright dawn of salvation to rise on us
  • and to shine from heaven on all those who live in the dark shadow of death, to guide our steps into the path of peace."
  • The child grew and developed in body and spirit. He lived in the desert until the day when he appeared publicly to the people of Israel.