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REPORT ON CHRISTMAS CELEBRATIONS: 24th & 25th, December, 2006

 

The festival of Christmas celebrates the glorious advent of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, on this earth about two millennia ago. Born in Bethlehem, He rose from humble beginnings to become a World Teacher. His message of Love and Compassion inspires millions of followers all over the world today. The Christmas season is marked with festivities and rejoicing at the wonderful gift that God bestowed on mankind in the form of His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And now, that very Father who sent Christ has incarnated amidst us as our Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. It is our good fortune to behold and adore His beautiful form and witness the grand sight of people professing different faiths deriving the bliss of celebrating their religious festivities in His Divine presence.

The Christmas Celebrations at Prasanthi Nilayam commenced on the evening of 24th December, Christmas Eve. Devotees from many overseas countries had gathered to adore the Divine Father with their carols sung first by a children’s choir and then by the adults. It was heartwarming to see thousands of eyes riveted in reverence on Bhagawan as He listened to their expressions of devotion and yearning. At the end of the programme, Bhagawan blessed the conductors of the two choirs and presented them with sarees.

 

In the early hours of 25th December, the choir groups gathered in Sai Kulwant Hall and sang carols for about an hour and a half. After Bhagawan granted Darshan, the students of Sri Sathya Sai Primary School presented a violin programme. The Institute Brass Band then followed with a thrilling performance. Bhagawan then permitted the students of Bhagawan’s Institute and School to commence their musical presentation. The students sang carols and songs capturing the spirit of Christmas. The songs were interspersed with a dialogue between a child and his uncle that brought out the many wonderful aspects of the Christmas celebration. The beautiful songs with excellent musical accompaniment gladdened the hearts of all present. As the students sang the popular carol, “Jingle Bells”, students dressed as Santa Claus, came prancing into the hall and approached Bhagawan for His blessings before distributing their goodies to everyone. Bhagawan then answered the yearnings of the thousands gathered in Sai Kulwant Hall as He descended the dais and went amidst the hordes of devotees blessing them on this sacred day.

The afternoon programme featured talks by two distinguished devotees of Bhagawan. They were introduced by the Christmas Programme Coordinator, Mr. John Behner of El Salvador. The first speaker was Mr. Arthur Hillcoat, a long-standing devotee hailing from Australia. He began by observing that if Jesus were to come to Prasanthi Nilayam today, he would be really happy. Not because we are celebrating his birthday in such a grand manner, but because thousands of people from diverse nationalities, speaking different languages and following different faiths have come together to adore the Lord in a spirit of love and harmony. The greatest gift we can give God is to live by at least one of his teachings, he said. Mr. Hillcoat mentioned that we must live life as it comes, cherishing the difficulties, sorrows and tears as much as we cherish our joys and pleasures, for it is the difficult times that lead us to enquire into our true nature. The Lord will then enter our lives to lead us to our own reality, he said. He concluded his talk by saying that having been blessed to come to the divine fold, we should not fritter away this golden opportunity but practice at least one teaching of Bhagawan and thereby find fulfillment in our lives.

The second speaker was Father Charles Ogada, a Catholic priest from the state of Abia in Nigeria. Father Charles said that the essence of Christmas was to realise the Christ Consciousness, which is but our inner self. The purpose of our lives is to realise our true nature. He narrated the thrilling story of how he came to the Lotus Feet of Bhagawan, or as he put it, how Bhagawan came to him. He had led a routine life until the age of seventeen. He was to go on to study medicine at a prestigious university in Nigeria. One day, as he sat in seclusion in a forest near his house, he heard a Divine Voice asking him what he wanted to do with his life. Recognising the voice to be that of God, he replied, “Sweet Father, I want to offer this life to you”. His life thus took an unexpected turn as he decided to study to be ordained as a Catholic priest. However, after nine years of religious studies, he was frustrated as he still could not come face to face with the God he was praying to. One day, one of his teachers mentioned the name “Sai Baba” and this name he said “shook the foundations of Heaven within me”. There is tremendous power in that name, Father Ogada said. A few days later, Bhagawan appeared in his dream and said, “I am the one you have been seeking”. He came to Prasanthi Nilayam in 2001 and was overwhelmed by the Love of Bhagawan, which, he said, was like the love of millions of mothers. When he met Swami, he felt he met Jesus, for had Christ not said “I and My Father are one”. Father Ogada concluded his thrilling talk with a prayer to Swami to make the entire world aware that the Father, who Jesus had said had sent Him, is now with us.

Acceding to the prayers of the devotees, Bhagawan then granted His Divine Discourse. Bhagawan observed that man is a bundle of paradoxes. He can be loving sometimes and full of hate at other times; he is deceitful to some people while being a trustworthy person to others. In truth, however, the inner self of man is without blemish. Depending on every individual’s tendencies, he responds to his environment. But, these are merely superficial appearances, for the Divine principle within is beyond all attributes, He said. Bhagawan, while praising Father Ogada’s devotion, reminisced about His trip to East Africa and the intense devotion of the people there.

At the conclusion of Bhagawan’s discourse, Bhajans were sung and after accepting Arati He retired to His residence.

Jai Sai Ram!