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National Christmas Celebrations 2013

With bated breath, I stepped foot into the most majestic venue of the Ladies Cheltenham College for attending my first National Christmas celebration....and it certainly did take my breath away!

The venue in itself created such a heaven- like atmosphere. The air was filled with absolute bliss and serenity, and this experience was amplified as the programme commenced with sublime invocation hymns sung by the ‘Anahata’ group, inviting the Higher deities to bless us with their omnipresence! In my childhood years, both participating in and watching Christmas services, I have never witnessed such “Unity in Diversity”. What followed for the next hour was a most charismatic traditional Christmas Service, Festival of Nine Lessons & Carols, that was conducted by an equally cheerful and wise Minister, Reverend Katie McClure. As the first carol ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ commensed, the Reverend led a procession of regally dressed young children, holding the beautiful Christingles in their hands, into the Hall. It was so grand that one could not but help bring to memory the grand welcomes given to our beloved Bhagawan in Prasanthi Nilayam. A string of beautiful carols were then rendered by an energetic choir comprising of about 50 devotees from all over UK; these were interspersed with aptly chosen Readings from the Holy Bible that were delivered, again, by representatives from all the Regions in UK with such power and passion that I felt the college was vibrating in tune to the beat! It was an absolutely mesmerising offering. It brought the true magic of Christmas alive taking the occasion to “another level”.

The Reverend gave a very thoughtful Christmas Sermon towards the end of this Service. She was evidently a great scholar, but what was most admirable was her simplicity and love. It was also obvious that she had made sincere efforts to study Bhagawan’s Messages on unity, love and service, for she drew many parallels between the lives of Jesus Christ and Bhagawan Baba.

The gear changed yet again when we were treated to a foot tapping performance by the Emmanu'-EL Apostolic Gospel Academy Children’s Choir from Leicester. The title of their performance, ‘Joy to the World’, was most definitely emulated by these soul-singing children. The bliss was now pervading the atmosphere as an electric buzz...with every person present smiling gleefully and this was confirmed by an astounded Deputy Mayor of Cheltenham, Councillor Simon Wheeler, who addressed the assembly with high praise for the event and the Sathya Sai Message of Interfaith Harmony.

That warm, glowing feeling was heightened with the next performance by the Quire Voice Ensemble from Windsor. With such melodious and harmonious voices, singing so gracefully, the tranquillity they created set the scene perfectly for Jesus Christ’s birth! I felt that their beautiful renditions illuminated the magnificent manger backdrop and the scene was re-created. The morning festivities and teachings had certainly drummed up an appetite for a scrumptious Christmas lunch with all the trimmings, and you could really taste the love in the mince pies!

After re-fueling we sat back, relaxed and enjoyed a priceless presentation of the Nativity play entitled ‘One with God’ by the Sai Spiritual Education Children from Merton, London. The audience could not stop applauding! The play was full of fun and frolics, with baby sheep calling out for BA-BA and yet the morals behind the story, namely the importance of the five human values, were portrayed eloquently. There were some very proud parents and teachers in the audience who had clearly put in a vast amount of hard work and sacrificed time and energy in the rehearsals. It was a joy to witness this!

There was even more icing on the cake with an exhilarating performance by none other than our very own, and internationally famous star, Dana Gillespie who gave us a feel for different styles of music from fusion to blues. I was transported to another world as she shared with us, through song, “His message of Love”. By this stage, my heart was already skipping a beat or two, being filled to its brim with such “explosions of love” …..BUT the emotions were further stirred as our little SSE children presented the Food items brought in by the devotees on the day, as a special Christmas Service to Food Banks. They presented these to representatives of the Trussell Trust Food Banks and those from the Cheltenham Communities Project, who admitted to being speechless by the love and discipline of the SSE children. The children were then given presents by you know who…….Santa Claus!! To see the unbridled and unsullied glee, enthusiasm, simple but pure joy on the faces of the little ones was a heart-warming sight indeed! Their guilelessness brought out the innocent child lurking in each one of us around! Truly, the Christmas spirit of loving and sharing appeared to have dissolved all the barriers of age, class, colour, creed or religion!

This memorable event made me dwell upon how lucky we are and how we should grab every opportunity we have to “Love all and Serve all” in whatever small way we can…a most profound and apt way to conclude an amazing day which was totally enshrined in the teachings of Jesus Christ and our Most Beloved Swami.


Dr. Anila Modi,