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Love and Light

Region 1 - Christmas Celebrations at Merton Sai Centre

25th December 2012

Over the years, Christmas in the UK has sadly become very commercialised. With people digging into their bank accounts and borrowing on credit cards to buy presents, decorations and food - the true meaning of Christmas can be buried under a mountain of materialism! However at the Merton Sai Centre the tradition stands that, on Christmas Day, Christmas is celebrated as one big Sai family at the Sai Mandir, with the true meaning of this special day dwelled upon with joy, through the eyes of the young SSE children.

The celebrations began at 4pm on Christmas day with three Gayathri Mantras, the 108 names of Bhagavan and a few special bhajans. Then the Merton Sai Centre SSE children performed the Christmas Nativity Play. After many weeks of rehearsals, the Group One and Nursery children told us the Christmas story with joy, excitement and sincerity. There were several dances performed by the Nursery children (from the tender age of just 4 +) which included an angel dance, a donkey dance, drummer boy’s dance and even a sheep dance, interspersed within the scenes of the play, with lovely costumes and lovely music.

The children at such a young and tender age were able to put a smile on everyone’s faces and reminded us of exactly why we celebrate Christmas. People remembered that Christmas should not merely be a shopping exercise, running up and down the high street, nor partying over the Christmas holidays, serving alcohol and meat. It’s about remembering the birth of Lord Jesus and His Mission. The play concept was so lovely – a real Sai Christmas Play – bringing in Swami’s teachings through the eyes of a grandfather and his SSE grandchildren, without detracting from the original nativity story.

I remember that Professor Anil Kumar quoted in one of his Sathsangs:

"Jesus has come down to help all of us who are poor in spirit, such that we will enrich ourselves with the depth of understanding, with the depth of experience, with the profundity of knowledge. Jesus always lived amongst the poor, meaning he wanted to release the poor people not from their financial poverty, but from their spiritual poverty. This is what I understand as I look at Jesus Christ and His mission. He further said that the kingdom of heaven is within you; Jesus stands for Love. Love is the synonym of Jesus. Baba said, “If you want to know Me, if you want to come closer to Me, if you want to be near and dear to Me, the only secret is Love and Love alone.” So, Jesus is Love; Baba is Love."

Once the Nativity Play had finished to thundering applause, the Group three SSE children of Merton Sai Centre sang traditional Christmas carols which included: Joy to the World, Amazing Grace, Jingle Bells, We wish you a merry Christmas and a special song performed in Prashanthi Nilayam Christmas celebration, “Om Sai Ram”. The carols were well rehearsed and lifted everyone’s spirits as they joined together in harmony, the audience listening with great appreciation and singing along with well loved carols. It was amazing to see that, in total, 47 young children had taken part in the Nativity play and 30+ older children sang the carols – a true reflection of the dedication of the SSE teachers who had given so much of their time, effort and love to train them. Father Christmas put in his much anticipated appearance, throwing sweets to all the adult audience, whose hands eagerly went up to catch the rainbow shower of chocolate and sweets - showing that, at this time of year, we are all children at heart!

The celebrations ended with three more bhajans and Mangala Arathi - performed, in time-honoured tradition at the Mandir, by Father Christmas, who then distributed gifts and sweets to all the children. Refreshments were served at the close of the program.

It was a wonderful day spent with our large Sai family. The birth of Jesus, our Saviour, was celebrated with joy and spirituality, capturing a little of what we feel when we go and celebrate Christmas in Prashanthi. And everyone, from the smallest child to the oldest member of the audience, took Swami’s message about Christmas home with them, keeping the joy of the birth of Lord Jesus in our hearts.

Jai Sai Ram