Most excellent Theophilus, lover of God,
It seemed it was time to write you. Having investigated everything clearly myself, and for a long time, I have written an accurate account in sequence. I have devoted my work and words here with a particular goal in mind: that you might know the certainty about the matters reported to you by word of mouth. And I have compiled this account because many have put their hands to the task to write down a story about the matters that were fulfilled among us. Their accounts were recorded just as the eyewitnesses told it to us. They became servants of the Word.
The matters in which you are interested came to pass in the days of Herod, King of the Jews. There was a certain priest named Zachariah, from the order of Abia, and his wife was from among the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous before God, embracing all the commands. And when it came to walking in the righteousness of the Lord, they were blameless. But they had no children.
It was because Elizabeth was barren. And their childbearing days were far-gone.
The time came for him to serve as priest before God, in the way of his order. According to the custom of the priests, the dice chose him to be the one to burn incense when he came into the temple of the Lord
And all the people were praying outside during the hour of its lighting.
And an angel of the Lord appeared to him. It was standing to the right of the altar of incense. When Zachariah saw it, he was so startled that fear fell upon him. And the angel said to him:
“Don’t fear Zachariah, because your deep prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a child. And you shall call him John. With the boy, you will find yourself so happy and rejoicing. In fact, many will be filled with joy at his birth. So listen carefully: he must not drink wine or hard alcohol. But it gets deeper. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even in his mother’s womb. And he will bring back many sons of Israel to the Lord their God. John will come before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah with a two fold mission: first to return the hearts of fathers to children and the disobedient into right thinking; second – by tilling the soil – to prepare the people for the Lord.”
Zachariah said to the angel: “By what sign will I know this for sure?” For I am old and my wife’s childbearing days are far gone.”
And responding, the angel said to him:
“You want a sign? I am Gabriel, the one who stands near to the face of God. I was sent to speak to you and to declare these things. Now behold, silence will come upon you, and you will not be able to speak. You won’t be able to speak until the day these things come to pass. You are silenced, because you didn’t believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their right time.”
All the while, the people were waiting for Zachariah. And they were astonished at how long it was taking him in the temple. Then when he came to them, he wasn’t able to speak to them. All they could discern were three things: that he saw a vision in the temple, that he was gesturing to them, and that he remained unable to speak.
So it came to pass that when the time of his service was fulfilled, he left for home. After this all happened, Elizabeth, his wife, conceived. She kept herself in her room for five months in wonder, saying, “The Lord has done this for me. These are surprising days when, among the race of men, the King-Hearted One brought me out of the night of my disgrace.”
Then, in Elizabeth’s sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God into a city of Galilee called Nazareth. Gabriel was sent to a young woman who was engaged. They guy’s name was Joseph. He was from the house of David. The name of the young woman was Mariam.
When the angel got to her, it said, “Greetings, grace-filled Mariam. The Lord is with you.” And she was so startled by the noise. She thought to herself: what kind of greeting might this be? And the angel said to her,
“Don’t fear. For you found grace with God.
Behold, there’s going to be a conception in your womb. And you will carry a child full term. And you will call him Jesus.
And this child will be historic. He will be called Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give the throne of his Father David to him. He will rule over the house of Jacob for eternity. And the age of his rule will have no end.”
And Mariam said to the angel: “How will this be, since I am not – you know – active with a man.“
And in response, the angel said two things to her.
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you. You will catch a portion of the Almighty’s shadow and its most-high power. And therefore the holy child will be called the Son of God.
And if you want a further sign, your cousin Elizabeth also conceived her son in her belly. The one who was called barren is six months along. With every word, nothing is impossible for God.
And Mariam said, “if you want a sign: ‘I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’”
And the angel left her.
Then Mariam, filled with hope from Gabriel’s words, eagerly left for the hill country, into a city of Judea. She went to the house of Zachariah.
When she got close, she yelled out to Elizabeth. And it happened that, as Elisabeth began hearing Mary’s greeting, the baby kicked hard in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
She shouted back two spontaneous things: “blessed are you among women,” and “the fruit of your womb is blessed.”
“How is this happening to me?” Elizabeth went on to say,
“How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For here is a sign: as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby kicked hard in my womb with great joy.
“Blessed is the one (you Mariam) who believed God’s words to her would come true.”
And Mariam said,
“My Spirit praises the Lord. And the beating of my heart rejoices in God my savior. Why should I be filled so? Because a King has noticed the humility of his servant! Take this as a sign to come: From now on, all generations will count me blessed. And all the honor is His. The great and Mighty One did this to me. His name is Pure and Precious.
His mercy comes to those who fear him, passing from generation through generations. He has a powerful arm with which he has done mighty things in history. To those who are prideful in the attitudes of their heart, he shattered them. He brought down rulers from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.
He filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. And most of all, He embraced his son Israel, remembering mercy. It was a promise that inspired him. A promise to Abraham, a promise to our fathers, a promise chiseled in eternity.”
Mariam remained with Elizabeth for three months. Then she returned to her father’s house.
The time came for Elizabeth to have her child. She brought forth a son. And the people that were living near her house – and then her relatives – heard that the child’s Lord showed great mercy to Elizabeth. They rejoiced with her.
And when the eighth day came, they made the “in God’s people” cut on the child. And they said, “we will call him Zachariah, after his father.”
And his mother responded, “Not this. He will be called John.”
And they said to her, “There is nobody in your family called John.”
Zachariah heard them saying, “What should we call him?” So asking for a little tablet, he spoke while he wrote it: “His name is John.”
Everybody was amazed. He was able to speak again. And, before he spoke any more words, he called out praises to God.
All the neighbors were fearful. What happened in Zachariah’s family spread throughout the whole mountain of Judea. All those who heard it treasured it in their hearts saying, “Who will this child be? For the hand of the Lord is with him.”
And Zachariah, John’s father, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and holding John he prophesied saying,
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he sheltered us and made a way out of bondage for his people. God lifted the horn of salvation for us from the house of his son David. He made good on the promise of salvation he spoke through the mouth of his timeless prophet. The message was twofold: First, he is making mercy with our fathers. Second, he remembered his Holy covenant. And what is our salvation? It means that we are saved from the hands of our enemies and from the hands of all who hate us.
In the covenant, he swore an oath to our Father Abraham for our day too, to embolden us out of the hands of our enemies, rescuing us for this reason: so that we might dedicate ourselves to worship him and be righteous before him.
And you boy; you will be called a prophet of the most high. For you will serve as a prophet before the Lord in two ways: first, to prepare His way and second, to give the knowledge of salvation to his people. That knowledge will come through the forgiveness of their sins and from the heartfelt mercies of our God.
And it is from those mercies that the rising dawn of salvation will choose to grace us. It will give light to those sitting in darkness, even in the darkness of death. The sun will guide our feet onto the path of peace.
And the child grew and became strong in his spirit, and he was in the desert until the day he was made known to Israel.
The months passed. On one of these days, a message was delivered from Caesar Augustus. He was taking a census of the whole world.
It was the first census ever, before the one when Kurenios was ruling Syria.
And everybody packed his or her things. They would register in the city where their family came from.
And Joseph set off to register too. He went with his fiancée Mary who was now eight months pregnant. They set off from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth. They went to Judea into a city of David called Bethlehem. They went there because Joseph was from that line and it was where his family line came through. It is where David used to live.
And while they were there, Mary went into labor. She gave birth to her son, to the firstborn. She swaddled him and set him in a feeding trough, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And there were shepherds in their fields. It was the night watch. They were dwelling there and guarding their sheep. And an angel of the Lord was sent to them. The glory of the Lord embraced them. And they trembled with a great fear.
So the angel spoke to them:
“Don’t be afraid. For behold, I bring you news that will send rejoicing through your heart. And it is for all the people. A sign of salvation has entered the earth, near you, in the city of David. The Lord Messiah has come.
If you go there, you will find the sign for yourself: a baby swaddled and laying in a feeding trough.”
And suddenly out of nowhere there was with the angel a multitude of the hosts of heaven. They were praising God and saying, “Everything is as it should be. Glory in highest with God. So let peace be found also on earth among humanity.”
After all of this, the angels left them and went up into heaven. And the herdsmen conferred with one another. “We should go to Bethlehem and see about this sign,” they said. “According to the Lord, we should find a baby there.”
And they left eagerly and sought out Mariam and Joseph and the baby, who was lying in the manger. And when the shepherds saw them there, they knew its significance, about the word given to them by the angels, and about this child. When the little family heard the shepherd’s report, they were amazed about it. And Mary continued her reflective practice. She kept adding it all up in her heart. She joined their story with the many amazing, but hidden, signs they had experienced.
Then the shepherds returned to their fields giving glory and praising God for all that they heard and saw. For all of it was just as the angels had said.
And when the eighth day arrived and it was time to make the “in God’s people cut” on his body, they named the boy Jesus. Even before he was placed in the womb, the angel gave him that name.
So when that day of cleansing arrived, the day prescribed by the law of Moses, they led him up to Jerusalem and set him before the Lord. They were following the Lord’s law closely: “Every firstborn that makes it through his mother will be called holy to the Lord. Therefore give a sacrifice of two turtle doves or two young doves.
And behold, in Jerusalem there was a man called Symeon. This man was righteous and authentic with God. He was abandoned in spirit, hoping for light to shine on Israel again. And the Holy Spirit was upon him. The Holy Spirit had been revealing something to him: that he would not see death before he saw the Messiah of the Lord.
This particular day he came into the temple filled with the Spirit. The parents and the baby Jesus were led into the temple. They did for him what was customary of the law. And Symeon scooped up Jesus in his bent arms. And he praised God saying,
“Now, Ruler, I am at peace. Let your servant depart as you said. For my eyes got a glimpse of your salvation. You set this light up in a public place so all the people could see him. Your salvation is a revelation for the gentiles and for the glory of your people, Israel.”
His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about their child. Then Symeon turned to bless them saying to his mother Mariam, “Be warned. He exists for the downfall and for the uplifting of many in Israel. He exists as a sign of opposition. And now this: before you and by the sword, he will meet his destined end. His death will shed light on the careful reasoning of many hearts.
Then in the temple, they came upon another voice. Anna was a prophetess from the tribe of Aser. She was a daughter of Phanouel. And she was getting way-up there in her age. She had lived with a husband for seven years. She had saved herself for him. Then – a sad story – she became a widow, and she lived the single life for eighty-four years. During that time she never left the temple. She filled her life with fasting and prayers. And she would worship night and day.
And just as Symeon finished talking, she crowded the family and thanked God deeply. She spoke about him to all who were praying for Jerusalem’s independence from Rome.
And when they completed everything proscribed by the law, they went back to Galilee into their city of Nazareth. And the child got taller and stronger. And, being filled with wisdom, the grace of God was upon him.
One year, his family – and the others – went up to Jerusalem for the festival of Passover. When it reached the twelfth day, they packed up according to the custom of the festival. And on the final day when they were leaving, Jesus remained in Jerusalem. His family didn’t know it.
They got out to about a days journey. They were under the impression that he was playing among the others. Then they went looking for him among the cousins and friends. When they didn’t find him, they traced their steps back all the way to Jerusalem searching for him.
After three days, they found him in the temple, sitting amidst the teachers. He was listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were really impressed over his understanding and answers.
And seeing him there, his mother was astonished and said to him, “Child! What in the world do you think you are doing to us? Look at me! Your father and I have taken great pains to search for you.”
And Jesus said to them, “What reason did you have to search for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be around my father’s people? Well, they did not quite get what he was saying to them.
Then they left that place and came to Nazareth. And he was obedient to them. And his mother collected up everything in her heart. Jesus grew before God and his community in wisdom and favor and grace.