December 25, 2013

The Birth of John the Baptist and Jesus Foretold

The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

5. In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. 7. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.

8. Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9. he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11. Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13. But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15. for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

18. Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years."

19. The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."

21. Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25. "The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26. In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27. to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

29. Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33. and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

34. "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

35. The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37. For nothing is impossible with God."

38. "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39. At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40. where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. 41. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43. But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44. As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"

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