Published on Saturday, December 31, 2010 @ 1700 hrs.
Yet another Christmas – the festival becomes so very meaningful when you celebrate it in the Divine Presence! For those seekers of Jesus, those seekers of Truth who knows "Sathya", this is the occasion to rejoice 'the advent' in presence of the “Father’; for them who are missing the action physically in Prasanthi, it will be difficult to fill the void of not being in Prasanthi and it is time for sheer nostalgia! In Prasanthi, Christmas often comes as a drill of Unity, where the universal approach reigns the supreme.
Christmas 2010 had a huge turnout of overseas devotees and Prasanthi experienced the festive exuberance with a dedicated South African Team setting the Abode lit up all over with colourful decorations. There were Santas, Christmas Trees, Nativity scenes and back in the Sai Kulwant Hall, there was a riot of lights and colours all over, with the message in bold bright letters, All Are One!
Christmas Eve presented the International Choir singing Christmas Carols in the immediate Divine presence. Prior to the commencement of the programme, after lighting the lamp by the Divine hands, Christmas Committee Chairman John Behner and Choir Conductor Sylvia Alden sought Divine blessings.
The choir began with, "Ganaanaam Twa..." and continued with several of the most beautiful and well‑known Christmas carols. Some of the popular numbers sung were, It’s Christmas Time…., Glory to the Lord…, King of Kings Majesty…, Almighty God…, Silent Night… etc.
Bhagawan, seated on the dais, appeared pleased. At the end of the 12th hymn, Bhagawan called for Mangala Arathi.
Bhagawan moved down the dais blessing the group with a photo session. The Choristers were ecstatic as Bhagawan allowed them to converge in a semi-circle around Him and hundreds of faces were beaming the joy of being in close proximity.
Over 750 choristers from various countries participated in the programme conducted by Sylvia Alden from the United States.
The next morning, at around 0700 hrs., again the sound of Christmas carols went up in the Sai Kulwant Hall, conveying joy to everyone around who had gathered in the background to wish their overseas brothers and sisters: "Holy Christmas." The Choir that lasted for twenty minutes had some of the seasonal choir hymns in English apart from some in Zulu language of the Africans.
Following the Christmas Eve when the Christmas day dawned, the focus of attention was unto Him and in His anticipated presence. In the evening there was high expectation in the air and Sai Kulwant was ready with festive exuberance to receive the Lord! Apart from the official Christmas 2010 schedule by SSSSO, overseas, an Italian Orchestra was also scheduled for the eventful evening.
Bhagawan, clad in yellow, arrived at 1850 hrs. in His Divine Carrier, Toyota Porte AP02 N9000. The special day earned bounus Darshans as Bhagawan, following the first round of Darshan, went for a second round of the hall, and the surge of devotees was ecstatic. Many who missed His 'catchy' glance in the first round ensured one in the second round. Primary School children were up on their feet, holding aloft their Christmas Greetings, trying to win Divine attention.
Blessing the Christmas cakes arrayed on the Verandah, Bhagawan came on stage, soon to commence the proceedings for the evening. The proceedings began with International Christmas Committee Chairman John Behner addressing the assembly.
John Behner spoke about the ‘star’ connection that is in common for both Bhagawan and Jesus Christ. Referring to a mention in one of Late Dr. Fanibunda’s books, John Behner mentioned about the medallion wherein the letters TPS appeared, interpreted well as Star descended in Parthi as Sathya Sai Baba! Jesus Christ also had a guiding star descended upon earth, in Bethlehem, as the Messenger of Lord. He later introduced the two speakers for the evening. The speakers were Kirsten Pruzan, a Danish Journalist of eminence who worked on assignments in more than fifty countries and Cass Smith from Encinitas, Calif. He is the President of Sadhana Fellowship, a non-profit organization for psychological healing and spiritual awareness. Cass is also an accomplished musician and song writer.
Ms. Pruzan spoke gracefully, sharing her personal experience of the 'Divine Pull' that brought her to Parthi for the first time. Elaborating on the omnipresence shown by Swami at her Danish home, she narrated a wonderful experience wherein her husband, Prof. Pruzan, was saved by Bhagawan, from being taken as a hostage after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, while returning from Parthi.
“…now that Bhagawan’s pull was irresistible…already that same summer my husband went to Prasanthi Nilayam again. On Aug 1, 1990, he should catch his flight home. Before leaving the Ashram he prayed to Sai Baba to help him land safely; …but, his plane from Bangalore to Mumbai (Bombay) was delayed for so long that he missed his flight connection with Kuwait Airways. The following day he got a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt and the first thing that he heard upon landing was that Iraq had invaded Kuwait. If Bhagawan in His great mercy had not delayed Peter’s flight he would have been in Kuwait Airport waiting for the flight connection to Europe exactly at the same time as the soldiers from Iraq took passengers in the airport as hostages.” (Prof. Peter Pruzan is currently teaching at SSSIHL, Prasanthigram).
Cass Smith spoke of His Love quoting Samuel Sandweiss from his famous book, Sai Baba, The Holy Man and Psychiatrist. A musician by himself, Smith strummed his guitar to produce three gems of musical pieces, concluding with the his popular song, "I keep feeling your love...". He also narrated a wonderful experience that happened at Brindavan, sharing how Bhagawan miraculously cured him of an 'ear-mishap'.
A "Christmas in Sai Love" was the theme for the concert by a group of Italians led by Sonja Venturi along with Sergio Vigagni, Evige Fontana, Dalliah Gutman, Bruno Pratico etc. and a set of musical scorers. As they took over after receiving Divine Blessings, music flowed with bhajans tuned in western style echoing the Sai Kulwant Hall. Beginning with three Omkars, salutations to Lord Ganesha and Twameva Matha, Sonja Venturi produced a scintillating “Mukunda Murari”, styled in west, to the amusement of Bhagawan and the capacity audience. Audience clapped after every song as the Italians went on singing for the next fifty minutes. A Beethoven Medley, a couple of Italian numbers, White Christmas etc. were followed by a combined song, 'Happy Christmas', that came as grand finale. The whole programme was organised by senior Italian devotees Luigi Ferrante and Anna Bruno.
Post the musical session, Bhagawan called the singers and musicians on stage, one after one, showering blessings. A second round of blessing ensued when the four ladies in the group were again called on stage, one after one, to receive prasadam from the Divine Hands. A group of tiny tots from Italy also came on stage receiving prasadam from the Divine Hands. Prasadam was distributed to the entire audience as well.
Mangala Arathi was offered at 2120 hrs. and Bhagawan retired to Yajur Mandiram at 2130 hrs.
Children Drama cum Choir Session
The grand finale of the three day Christmas celebrations witnessed little children from around the world taking the centre-stage singing and enacting the glory of Jesus and Sathya Sai on the 27th evening of December in Sai Kulwant Hall. When two programmes, an International Children Choir and a Musical Play, that were scheduled for the previous evening got postponed as ‘willed’ by Bhagawan, this 'fresh-week' evening found a ‘combined programme’, setting a grand finale for the Christmas 2010 celebrations.
Bhagawan arrived just after 1820 hrs. and the hall was full. Covering the ladies' end Bhagawan's car took a detour moving out, only to return after ninety minutes.
Coming on stage, initial blessings followed before the commencement of the programme. John Behner, International Christmas Committee Coordinator along with Alma Badings, the Choir Conductor from the Netherlands and the Drama Director Victoria Hargreaves from the US took blessings.
The Programme entitled ‘The Spirit of Christmas’ was an enactment of the life of Jesus Christ. Set against the backdrop of a Christian home in the thick of Christmas celebrations, the presentation was centred on a little boy, Billy, who, having lost faith, was disinterested in the whole of the festive affair.
His Family got into prayer mode seeking Swami’s intervention and in response came Billy’s Guardian Angel and the Spirit of the Past, taking the boy to Bethlehem to the times of Jesus.
The boy was to witness the most sacred of the lives, that of Jesus! The Spirit of the Past took him to the lively scenes prior to the birth of Jesus, Baby Jesus in the Manger and his growing up into a man teachings and preachings as a guiding star. The boy was overjoyed, having witnessed the ‘life of the past master’. Adding to his joy, Spirit of the Present joined Billy introducing him to his Guardian Angel. …And it was time for the big ‘initiation’.
Guardian Angel shared with the little one about Sathya Sai Baba and His Teachings. Leading the boy unto the precincts of Prasanthi Nilayam, he was given further enlightenment on “unity in diversity” and “Fatherhood of God”.
Finally the ‘dream run’ ended and Billy woke up to the Christmas morning. Faith was restored and Billy was transformed! ...and Billy vowed to Love and Serve everyone. Drama ended with Billy praying to the Lord to "bless us, bless everyone!"
The thirty three minute presentation was laced with choir songs in between describing the glory of the Heavenly Father and His messenger son! Crew consisted of children from South Africa, the US along with a couple of Scottish and Russian speaking children.
Soon after the presentation Bhagawan moved down the dais to pose with the children. Coming on stage, Bhagawan accepted Mangala Arathi. "Samastha Lokaaha..." was repeated yet again for a second time at His special instance and blessing the concourse Bhagawan left the dais, retiring to Yajur Mandiram just after 2100 hrs. Prasadam was distributed to the entire audience.
Earlier in the morning, as part of the Christmas celebrations, a Multi-Faith Worship Programme was organised at the double decker building, next to the Book Centre. Titled as "We Are One", the programme had representation from all major religions, namely, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism and Zoroastrianism etc. Presided over by Fr. Charles Ogada of Nigeria, donning the mantle of Master of Ceremonies, the programme that had good turnout of devotees had light meditation session, Universal Prayer, Holy Communion and Prasad distribution.