Christmas. As a family, it is a time we come home from different parts of the world. We remember together Christ, God’s lavish gift to us. How incredible that God would come to us, be accessible to us (not distanced)! He came as our Emmanuel, God with us, and as our true mediator. But Christmas has always been more than just remembering. It is a time of yearning for God’s redeeming salvation to touch the core of who we are: our family, church, neighbours and our nation.
Our majestic King willingly embraced vulnerability and graced our sin-marred lives. So Jesus’ coming signifies hope re-lit amidst the many things that cause us despair, disillusionment and doubt. In Isaiah’s words, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light…” (Isaiah 9:2). This is the breakthrough all of history has been waiting for, my family included!
Therefore, Christmas can never be merely a point in a year for me. Rather, it is the spring of life which flows out, shapes and redeems our lives. Every day has meaning only because Christ has come and has already begun his work of making all things new, even though we are far from seeing the end.
My celebrations have been shaped by what has been passed down the generations, at home and in my little evangelical Methodist Church. Our perspective was formed in a country where, until 2010, religious freedom was a given. We lived in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious culture marked by mutual respect, curiosity about each other’s faith and a true interest in the other. Now, with the threat of religious fanaticism at our doorstep, the “God who is on our side” keeps me unwavering.
I find the joy of being a woman is that many feel welcome to share their stories as we pilgrim together. As an FES Malaysia and IFES staff worker for 30 years, I have the privilege of receiving the painful stories of my students’ real lives and it brings me wrestling to the Lord about him being in our midst. My tears water his altar as I grapple with him about my students, and his ministry to me has further shaped my unshakeable conviction that God is indeed with us, our Emmanuel, and he has heard our cries. What good news Christmas is that Jesus has come to us and is coming back!
I often refer to myself as a ragamuffin, privileged to be swept up again and again by God’s endless grace and mercy. Therefore, I see my role in life as being a herald of this ‘God with us’, ushering people into his already and not-yet kingdom. And, whatever my formal job title, this role does not change. Of course, I am also a woman in leadership, so know I need to be aware of the temptation to think I have been treated unfairly or am not as good as other people. I need to not take myself too seriously — and free myself to be myself.
Indeed for me, this is the true meaning of living out the incarnation: to know God is for us, understands us, and gives us a high calling as we live out our own lives in fragility and vulnerability as a gift to him and the world!
Annette Arulrajah, IFES Regional Secretary for East Asia
Annette Arulrajah, from Malaysia, was appointed as IFES Regional Secretary for East Asia in August 2017. She served the IFES regional team for the past six years, before which time she led the student movement in Malaysia. Annette is a servant-hearted leader with a deep appreciation of how God works through her weaknesses, and a vision to continue to see him at work in students’ lives in the region.
Daniel Bourdanné, IFES General Secretary