1 Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us.
2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples.
3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus,
4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.
5 When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron.
6 Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.
7 They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.
8 One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week.
9 As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense.
10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.
11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar.
12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him.
13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.
14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,
15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.
16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God.
17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”
18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”
19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news!
20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”
21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long.
22 When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary.
23 When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home.
24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months.
25 “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee,
27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.
28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.
30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!
31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.
32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.
33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.
36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month.
37 For the word of God will never fail.”
38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
39 A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town
40 where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth.
41 At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
42 Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.
43 Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me?
44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.
45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
46 Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.
57 When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son.
58 And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her.
59 When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father.
60 But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!”
61 “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.”
62 So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him.
63 He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.”
64 Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.
65 Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills.
66 Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.
67 Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy:
68 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people.
69 He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David,
70 just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago.
71 Now we will be saved from our enemies and from all who hate us.
72 He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant—
73 the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham.
74 We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live.
76 “And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
77 You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins.
78 Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”
80 John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.
At the hearing of what God has and is doing there is an option to either question it with skepticism or embrace it with an open heart of expectancy. What is chosen will have much to do with personality, prior experience, and education. For whatever reason, though, when the first option is taken, there is an immediate disabling of godly influence through the mouth. Where a heart is in doubt, the mouth is not faith-allowed. However, where there is a heart awaiting the lofty things of God, the mouth will be liberated and empowered to not only confirm what He has spoken but also to glorify and bless His name from an inspired awakening to His greatness. Mary’s quick identification with God’s working both in her and her cousin resulted in a release of God-vision, filling her mouth with praises and prophetic utterance. For John, though, his reticence, no matter how “reasonable,” removed him from divine inspiration and participation verbally in the glory of the moments. In his simple affirmation of God’s name for his son, though, there was a release of amazing praise to God that revealed an adjusted heart from focus on prohibiting circumstances to unlimited ability in the name of the Lord.
Those who will live in the thrill of kingdom participation will be those whose hearts are open and receptive to the most amazing declarations of their God. Rather than drawing back with skepticism to what God declares in His Word, no matter how it shakes up established norms and patterns, the eyes of their hearts are ever lifted up above the horizon to the higher things of heaven. There are options presented every morning of either seeking out and proclaiming the extravagant workings of God or drawing back to the darkness of God-silence. How great is the experience awaiting every release of the heart to God-excitement, where the greater the prophetic utterance, the greater the heart’s open embrace. In every taking of the faith option, there is an entrance into an expanded capacity for inspired praise from a heart released from the norms of religious rote to the authentic sounds of Spirit inspiration. It is also the stepping through faith’s portal into the experienced plans and purposes of a God with no limits. Whichever option is taken, though, will be quite evident in either the silencing or the flooding of God sounds from the mouth.