"His name is John."

When Herod was king of Judea, there was a priest by the name of Zechariah from the priestly group of Abijah.  His wife Elizabeth was from the family of Aaron.  Both of them were good people and pleased the Lord God by obeying all that he had commanded.  But they did not have children.  Elizabeth could not have any, and both Zechariah and Elizabeth were already old.

One day Zechariah's group of priests were on duty, and he was serving God as a priest.  According to the custom of the priests, he had been chosen to go into the Lord's temple that day and to burn incense, while the people stood outside praying.

All at once an angel from the Lord appeared to Zechariah at the right side of the altar.  Zechariah was confused and afraid when he saw the angel.  But the angel told him:

Don't be afraid, Zechariah!  God has heard your prayers.  Your wife Elizabeth will have a son, and you must name him John.  His birth will make you very happy, and many people will be glad.  Your son will be a great servant of the Lord.  He must never drink wine or beer, and the power of the Holy Spirit will be with him from the time he is born.

John will lead many people in Israel to turn back to the Lord their God.  He will go ahead of the Lord with the same power and spirit that Elijah had.  And because of John, parents will be more thoughtful of their children.  And people who now disobey God will begin to think as they ought to.  That is how John will get people ready for the Lord.

Zechariah said to the angel, "How will I know this is going to happen?  My wife and I are both very old."

The angel answered, "I am Gabriel, God's servant, and I was sent to tell you this good news. You have not believed what I have said.  So you will not be able to say a thing until all this happens.  But everything will take place when it is supposed to."

The crowd was waiting for Zechariah and kept wondering why he was staying so long in the temple.  When he did come out, he could not speak, and they knew he had seen a vision.  He motioned to them with his hands, but did not say a thing.

When Zechariah's time of service in the temple was over, he went home.  Soon after that, his wife was expecting a baby, and for five months she did not leave the house.  She said to herself, "What the Lord has done for me will keep people from looking down on me."

When Elizabeth's son was born, her neighbors and relatives heard how kind the Lord had been to her, and they too were glad.

Eight days later they did for the child what the Law of Moses commands.  They were going to name him Zechariah, after his father.  But Elizabeth said, "No!  His name is John."

The people argued, "No one in your family has ever been named John."  So they motioned to Zechariah to find out what he wanted to name his son.

Zechariah asked for a writing tablet.  Then he wrote, "His name is John."  Everyone was amazed.  Right away, Zechariah started speaking and praising God.

All the neighbors were frightened because of what had happened, and everywhere in the hill country people kept talking about these things.  Everyone who heard about this wondered what this child would grow up to be.  They knew that the Lord was with him.

                                                                                         Luke 1:5-25, 57-66

Contemporary English Version The Holy Bible (New York , NY: American Bible Society 1995)