There once was a man named Zachariah who was a priest in the Abijah division when Herod was the king of Judea. He was married to a woman named Elizabeth, who, like him, was descended from the priestly line of Aaron. Both were honorable people and followed all the commandments of the Lord. They were childless because Elizabeth was barren and both of them were elderly.
Zachariah was chosen by lot to enter the inner sanctuary to burn incense when his division was on duty in the Temple. The entire assembly stood outside praying while he performed this task. An angel suddenly appeared, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Seeing the angel, Zachariah was startled and a feeling of terror fell upon him.
Then the angel said to him, “Have no fear Zachariah, your prayer has been heard! Your wife Elizabeth will give birth to a son, and you will name him John. Both of you will be filled with joy and gladness, and many people will rejoice with you at his birth. He will be a champion of the Lord. He must never drink alcohol, because he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will convince many Israelites to turn to the Lord their God. He will serve God with the same kind of spirit and power of Elijah, and will transform the hearts of parents to be like their children, and the hearts of the disobedient back to the wisdom of the faithful, to prepare all the people for the coming of the Lord.
Zachariah challenged the angel saying “How can I know that this is going to happen? Both I and my wife are very old.”
Then the angel replied “I am Gabriel, who stands in the very presence of God. I was sent to tell you this good news. But because you didn’t believe my words, which will come true in due course, you will lose your ability to speak until the child is born.”
Meanwhile, the congregation outside was wondering why Zachariah was taking so long in the sanctuary. When he finally appeared before them they deduced from his gestures (since he wasn’t able to speak) that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He continued to work at the Temple until his assignment was over, and then he returned home.
Shortly after that, his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and she went into seclusion for five months. She said “Blessed is the Lord for taking away my public disgrace!”
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