Immanuel Redeems

Holly Boland

Elizabeth’s life wasn’t going according to plan. Or at least, it wasn’t going according to her plan. She wasn’t living the Hebrew dream…married with 3.2 kids. She was married, and her husband Zechariah had a good job, but there was something missing—something that she desired, that she felt was expected of her, and that something missing caused her to feel shame.

Not too many years ago I could identify with Elizabeth. My life wasn’t going according to the expected plan. Approaching my mid-30s, I was single and hadn’t had a serious relationship in over a decade. I had a great job and great friends, but the expectation that I felt from society to be in a relationship, to be part of a couple, caused me to feel shame. How long was I going to have to keep answering the same questions about my love life? “Yup, still single!” I imagine Elizabeth faced similar fears around holidays or family gatherings. “Yup, still barren!”

Around this same time in my life, my now husband, Matt, could identify with Elizabeth in his own way. Having gone through a divorce and loss of daily life with his kids, his life wasn’t going according to the expected plan either. The story being written just didn’t make sense.

You likely have details of your story that cause you to identify with Elizabeth in your own way. The enemy has taken those details, the things that haven’t gone according to plan, and called you Shameful, Disgraced, Hopeless. Satan wants to control the narrative of your life. But, we have a Savior who doesn’t let him. Our Savior, the Author of all creation, specializes in the genre of hope.

One day, when Matt and I were planning our wedding, I read Isaiah 61, Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land and everlasting joy will be yours […] and all who see them will acknowledge that they are a people the LORD has blessed (Isa. 61:7&9). These verses became something of a theme for us. We’d both felt the enemy call us Forsaken, Shameful and Disgraced. But, God, like He did with Elizabeth, had taken those names away, looked upon us with favor and redeemed our stories.

Tim Keller tells the story of author Dorothy Sayers to illustrate how God writes Himself into our story. Sayers wrote a series about a character named Lord Peter Wimsey. Part way through the series a new character is introduced: a woman whose relationship with the main character heals him and fills the void of what’s been missing in his life. She looked into the fictional world she created, fell in love with it and wrote herself into it to redeem it. This is what God does for us—This is Christmas! God looked into the world He created, loved it and sent His Son to redeem it. Immanuel takes control of the narrative and heals it. The enemy may have a place in your story, but he is not the author.

Like John was for Elizabeth, Jesus is the plot twist that no one saw coming. Zechariah told Gabriel all the ways God’s plan wouldn’t work, but the Author has the final word—that nothing is impossible with Him (Luke 1:37).
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