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the priestly order, Zacharias and Elizabeth. They were both very aged, and they had no children, which was regarded as a calamity. When it came to the turn of Zacharias, in the order of his course, to execute the priest's office at Jerusalem, he went into the sanctuary of the temple to burn incense; and the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him there, and told him that he should have a son, and that his name should be John; that he should turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God; and that he should go before the Messiah in the spirit and power of Elias. Zacharias could not believe this wonderful message. He asked for a sign to confirm it. The angel answered, "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. And so it happened. From that moment Zacharias was not able to speak another word; and when he came out to the people in the outer court, he was unable even to pronounce the blessing upon them. a
Six months after, the same angel came to a virgin named Mary, who dwelt at Nazareth, and said to her, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women." The poor humble-minded Mary was troubled at such a salutation. But the angel pro
a Luke i. 8-22.
TO ZACHARIAS AND TO MARY.
ceeded: "Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David." When Mary asked how this should be, Gabriel answered, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. For with God nothing shall be impossible." Mary humbly received the gracious promise of the Lord, and the angel departed from her.
Immediately after this, Mary paid a visit to Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharias. At her first salutation Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost, and addressed Mary as the mother of her Lord. And Mary said,
"My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things;
Three months after Mary returned home to Nazareth, Elizabeth bare a son, according to the promise given to Zacharias by the angel. Eight days after the child was born he was to be circumcised, and a name was to be given to him. The friends present wished to call him Zacharias, but his mother said, "Not so; but he shall be called
b Luke i. 26--38.
Luke i. 46-49.
John." They made signs to his father, who was still dumb, to know how he would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, "His name is John." And they all marvelled. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake and praised God; and all who heard of these wonderful events were filled with astonishment. "What manner of child shall this be?" said the people one to another. But Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied; saying,
"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel;
For he hath visited and redeemed his people,
As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets ;-
The oath which he sware to our father Abraham.
And thou, child,
Shalt be called the prophet of the Highest:
For thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his
To give knowledge of salvation unto his people
And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel.
2. THE BIRTH OF JESUS.
AT that time the Roman emperor Augustus made a decree that all his subjects should be enrolled, according to their families, with their age and property; and for this purpose every person
d Luke i. 67-77.
THE BIRTH OF JESUS.
in the land of Canaan was required to go to the city or town where his family in former times had been accustomed to dwell. Mary was descended from the ancient royal family of David, which had been reduced and become very poor; and so was her espoused husband Joseph, who was a carpenter at Nazareth. An angel had appeared in a dream to Joseph, and had told him that Mary should bear a son, whose name should be called Jesus (Saviour), for he should save his people from their sins. At the same time he was commanded to take Mary unto himself. Accordingly, he journeyed with her to Bethlehem, where the family of David had been of old accustomed to dwell; and so it happened that the prophecy of the prophet Micah was fulfilled, that Messiah the king of Israel should be born in the little town of Bethlehem.
When they came to Bethlehem, the town was so full that they found no reception even in the house appointed for travellers; and they were therefore obliged to take refuge in a stable. Here Mary brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger. There He lay as a poor feeble child, who now sits upon the highest of all thrones-unknown to any but Joseph and Mary.
But he was to be made known. There were shepherds in the field, who were keeping watch over their flocks by night. To them the angel of the Lord appeared, surrounded with great glory, and he said, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped