Merry Christmas from Babylon

Sadly, I’m not going to make it. With only a handful of days left in the year, I’m several projects behind on my home-improvement goals, several pounds away from that diet/exercise target, and nowhere near where I dreamed my savings account would be by then end of 2019.

My “Read the Bible in 365 Days” plan I started last January didn’t go so well either. Today, I’m ashamed to say I’m still stuck way back in the book of Jeremiah. While my coffee brewed this morning, I skimmed the headings of today’s chapters and sighed:

  • “Time and Again We’ve Betrayed God”
  • “The Killing Fields”
  • “The Heart is Hopelessly Dark and Deceitful”

Got the Christmas spirit, yet? 

I grabbed my cup and curled up under my comfiest blanket. Wrapped in irony, I read about the painful plight of unfaithful, exiled people. Jeremiah 16:21 caused me to pause:

“Watch closely now. I’m going to teach these wrongheaded people. Starting right now, I’m going to teach them Who I am and what I do, teach them the meaning of my name, God—‘I Am.’”   

I sipped and remembered another time when God used I AM to name himself. Way back in Exodus, God introduced himself as I AM to Moses just before bringing the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. 

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM who I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”  -Exodus 3: 13-14

I pulled my blanket tighter and let my mind connect the dots. Since the genesis of this year, of my life, and of all time, God has been the only Faithful One. Over and over, he’s used wayward leaders, weeping prophets, and wilderness to rescue me and all fickle people. He’s the One who parts seas and breathes life into dead places. At least I’ve read and lived enough to know these truths. 

At first glance, today’s passage in Jeremiah seems like all rebuke and judgment. But when I consider it with the works and the heart of the I AM God, it reads differently, more gently, and with the desperate tone of a loving father. In the light of my Christmas tree and of all this, it reads: 

Jeremiah, tell them that I’m still the same God. Remember Pharaoh? Remember Moses and the desert? I’m still that God. I’m still the One who upholds every end of the law and keeps your broken promises. I’m the God who makes a way when there is none and brings the brightest lights to the darkest places. It’s me. I’m still here. 

Jeremiah’s audience needed to see their failures and sufferings in light of God’s character. They needed to trust that God’s ways would eventually bring them hope, joy, and home. They needed to turn from their lesser gods and toward the only One who was bigger than their problems.

I AM who I AM. Tell them.

I’m more like the exiles in Babylon than I care to admit, and even more than I’ll ever know. I pledge allegiance to God, then ignore him. I practice religion, only to worship myself. I wander, complain, and blame.

Unfortunately, you’re no better, my friend. Every human beats a selfish heart. We’re all weaker and more wrongheaded than we realize or admit. 

Since the beginning of time and the burning bush, God’s been the solution to our biggest problem. He’s always been the answer to every important question: 

Who is the only One who can rescue me?  I AM. 

Who is for me? At work on my behalf? I AM.

Who is able to right all of my wrongs, wipe my every tear, and make all things new? I AM.

God knew I’d fall short of my resolutions for 2019. He knew I’d still be surrounded by unfinished projects and heavy with unmet goals. He’s not surprised about where I am today. 

I’m blessed today to sit in the light of Emmanuel. Christmas brings the answer to one more crucial question:

Who’s with me? I AM

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). – Matthew 1:23

God’s message was, is, and always will be: I AM your God. I am WITH YOU

This message moved Moses and gave him courage. Jeremiah wept over it. For me, it does all of these. The great I AM offers me rest, motivation, and hope. 

Are you distant and suffering? Consider your situation with the works and the heart of the I AM God. Trust him. Let him comfort and lead you. He offers grace and mercy.

Do you know the One in the manger? If not, allow I AM to introduce himself to you this year. Be still and let him be Emmanuel. He’s bigger than he seems. 

And I’ve lived and read enough to know it’s just like him to deliver Christmas to those who fall short. 

“…and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Who is the only One worthy of this name? The Great I AM. Emmanuel. 

Merry Christmas. 

2 thoughts on “Merry Christmas from Babylon

  1. Michele Morin December 27, 2019 / 8:16 am

    Hi, Karen, I’ve had this post marinating in my inbox, waiting for the vortex to stop spinning long enough for a quiet read.
    I spent the better part of a year in a slow slog through Jeremiah, and I will never be the same again. The way he leaned into his impossible calling and put the grace and mercy of God on display for a reckless and headstrong nation is completely incomprehensible to me, and yet glorious, too.
    Thank you for this end of year reflection. It’s good to hear from you again.

    Liked by 1 person

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