More than 400 years after the last prophet spoke to the Jews, an angel appeared to an old priest named Zechariah. He was a godly man, but his wife, Elizabeth, could not have any children.
The angel said to Zechariah, “Your wife will have a son. You will name him John. He will be the great prophet that comes before the Messiah!” Zechariah responded, “My wife and I are too old to have children! How will I know this will happen?” The angel answered, “I was sent by God to bring you this good news. Because you did not believe me, you will not be able to speak until the child is born.” Immediately, Zechariah was unable to speak. Then the angel left. Zechariah returned home, and his wife became pregnant.
When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, the same angel appeared to Elizabeth’s relative, whose name was Mary. She was a virgin and was betrothed to a man named Joseph. The angel said, “You will become pregnant and give birth to a son.”
The angel continued, “You are to name him Jesus. He will be the Messiah!” Mary replied, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel explained, “The Holy Spirit will come over you, and you will conceive. So your son will be called the Son of the Most High God.”
Not long after this, Mary went and visited Elizabeth. As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s baby jumped inside her. The women rejoiced together about what God had done for them. After visiting for three months, Mary returned home.
After Elizabeth gave birth to her baby boy, they named him John as the angel commanded. Then God allowed Zechariah to speak again. He said, “Praise God, because He has remembered His people! You, my son, will be called the prophet of the Most High God! You will prepare the way for the Messiah!”