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Mary, who was going to be Jesus' mother, had a cousin named Elizabeth. Elizabeth was much older than Mary. She was getting to be an old woman. Elizabeth was married to a man named Zacharias who was a priest. He burned incense to God in the temple, for that was his duty as a priest in the temple.
Zacharias and Elizabeth had no children. They had wanted children but could not have any, and now they were too old.
One day Zacharias was burning incense at the altar. Only certain people could go in to the altar. The rest of the people were outside praying. Suddenly on the right side of the altar Zacharias saw an angel standing. Zacharias was afraid. The angel said, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias. God has heard your prayer. Elizabeth will have a baby son. His name will be John. Do not let Elizabeth drink any wine or strong drink, for John will be a great man. He will have God's spirit with him even before he is born. He will get the people ready for the coming of the Lord."
The Lord is Jesus Christ and John would get the people ready to listen to Jesus.
And Zacharias said, "I and my wife are old, how can we have a son now? How can I know this is true?"
"I am Gabriel," replied the angel. "I stand with God and He sent me to tell you this. But since you don't believe, you will not be able to talk until after the baby is born."
The people praying outside wondered why Zacharias was taking so long. Finally he came out and the people knew he had seen something. But Zacharias could not talk to them.
It was time for Zacharias to go home. Pretty soon they knew Elizabeth would have a baby.
When Elizabeth had been pregnant for about six months, the angel Gabriel was sent to Nazareth to visit Mary.
"Hello Mary," said Gabriel. "God is pleased with you and has chosen you to be the mother of the Son of God. His name will be Jesus. And also, your cousin Elizabeth, who is old, is in her sixth month of pregnancy. Everyone thought she was too old now to have a child, but nothing is impossible for God."
And Mary said, "Yes, I will have the baby, Jesus." Then Gabriel went back to heaven.
Soon Mary went to visit Elizabeth. Mary walked into the house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary, the baby, John, leaped inside her. Elizabeth knew that her baby was happy because Mary was going to have Jesus. Mary and Elizabeth were very happy and sang to God about how good He is.
Mary stayed for about three months and then went home.
Finally Elizabeth had the baby and all her friends were happy for her. When it was time to name the baby everyone said he should be named Zacharias. Elizabeth said, "No, his name is John."
All the friends looked at Zacharias. He wrote, "His name is John." As soon as he wrote it Zacharias could talk again. This made the people afraid.
"What kind of baby is this?" they wondered. But Zacharias spoke of how good God is and that God was now sending Jesus to the world.
John was born about six months before Jesus and they were second cousins. We don't know if they knew each other as they grew up. Many of us have second cousins that we have never seen.
When John became a man he began to preach to the people all over the countryside. He told the people that they must stop doing bad things and they must be baptized. The people should do this to get ready for the Lord who was coming soon.
John baptized many people and told them of the Lord. The Lord would take away the sins of the world and would bring all the people who would repent back to God.
Now Jesus was the Lord who John the Baptist was talking about. When Jesus was about thirty years old he came to John to be baptized.
Right away John knew that Jesus was the Lord of whom he had been telling the people.
John said to Jesus, "I can't baptize you. You are so much greater than I am. You are the Son of God. You should baptize me!"
John felt that he was not good enough to baptize the Son of God. But Jesus said, "Yes, you must baptize me so that all things can be done right."
John the Baptist and Jesus went into the water. John said a prayer and put Jesus under the water. Then he lifted Jesus out of the water.
Jesus walked up out of the water onto the shore. As he stood there the Spirit of God came down in the form of a dove and sat on Jesus. Then Jesus and John heard the voice of God from heaven. God said to Jesus, "You are My Beloved Son, I am well pleased with you."
Now John knew that the people should start following Jesus instead of him. Jesus was the Lord who John had been getting the people ready to follow.
adapted by Lois M. Anderson
from Matthew 3:27-46,
Luke Chapters 1 and 3,
and John 1:6-34 Inspired Version
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Copyright 2001 Lois M. Anderson: All Rights Reserved
Last revised: August 24, 2001