Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechari′ah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechari′ah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth;
for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Eli′jah,
to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” And Zechari′ah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news.
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.”
Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
John the Baptist was by birthright a priest of God and could have rightfully followed in Zechariah’s shoes, but he opted instead to live in the wilderness and forsake all worldly goods in honor of the Lord and to prepare the hearts of many for his coming. Elizabeth his mother was the cousin of Mary mother of Jesus. John was considered by some as a fearsome wild man, by others an eccentric. As for me, I admire him for his steadfast perseverance and dedication to proclaiming the coming of the Lord.