Over 200 children from around 14 countries brought the true spirit of Christmas with their unified feeling of love for the Lord, while humming in Prasanthi Nilayam in the immediate Divine Presence of Bhagawan on the beautiful evening on 26 Dec 2009.
First half of the programme was an evening by children for their Beloved Swami which later in the second half, at the culmination of the programme, turned out to become a twilight by Beloved Swami for His beautiful children from around the world.
When the Lord glided past the throng of devotees at 4:30 pm, blessing one and all, the stage was already set for the grand finale of the three day X-Mas celebrations. The evening had two scheduled programmes, with the first one being an International Children’s Choir conducted by Alma Badings of the Netherlands followed by the Children’s Christmas Drama 2009 by participants from Latin American countries, directed by Coni Avila Benitez from Mexico.
The International children started off in style with Ganesha Gayathri that was a precision rendering on par with well trained primary school children of Prasanthi Nilayam. After the show a beaming Alma Badings quipped, referring to the perfect rendering of the Ganesha Gayathri, “We had hectic practice sessions on the same”. The choir had a collection of 10 hymns which included some “non-english” numbers.
With the dancing movement of the finger baton of the graceful conductor, the children numbering exactly 153, sixty-nine boys and eighty-four girls, fixing their mental focus on the Divine Conductor sang in chorus, singing His praise in His immediate Divine presence.
They sang, “Sai Baba Sai Baba Sai Om Sai Baba…” followed by “We are your children from all corners of the globe..”, “En esta era de Kali Yuga…”, “We love you dearest Swami…”, “Om Sai Ram Sri Sathya Sai Baba…”, “Jesus is the savior whom I love to know…”, “Sin nje nje nje…”, “Njalo njalo…”, “With all your love from our heart…” etc…
Beaming faces, immersed in greater bliss at the very opportunity of singing in presence of the Mighty Lord were reflections of their greater love for their Beloved Swami. ..And Bhagawan has been quite attentive, all through.
The choir was assisted by able musicians numbering over 11 who played an array of instruments that included guitars, violins, tablas, African drum etc. The African drum beat that sustained in the air as a solo beat in between the choir was an added attraction that remained quite distinctive from the rest of the instruments.
The theme chosen for this year’s choir was “Christmas in Prasanthi is Pure Grace”, said Alma Badings, a veteran for many years with International Adult Choir and Ladies’ Day Choir who has been conducting the show for children from early 2000. “This year there has been many children participating. Every year the number has been increasing and children have been very well behaved and got many compliments”, added the conductor answering as to how she has been managing children from varied background in just 12 days time conducting a perfect show in the Divine Presence. “It was Children’s Love for Swami” said an active volunteer who has been helping Ms. Badings in the entire show. ”Swami’s Pure Grace” was all that Alma Badings wanted to add.
The Drama for the year, “Christmas Comes to My Heart” was based on Bhagawan’s teachings and Biblical gospels of Saint Luke and Saint Matthew.
Christmas in Prasanthi, in the Divine presence is a holy dream for any Sai child as they have been invariably taught of the greater significance of the holy celebrations in Prasanthi Nilayam, in Bhagawan’s own words. This year’s drama was a true expedition to Prasanthi to know the Christmas in its truest sense.
The story began from a warm Friday afternoon in December and the stage was set in a big Latin American city. Little Teo and his mother were at home getting some rest after a busy week. Teo was the only son of the Gonzalez family, a happy Sathya Sai family that has longed to make a Christmas trip to Prasanthi.
To a grateful mother whose joy knew no bounds at the opportunity to celebrate the holy occasion in the mighty presence, Little Teo, who was ever inquisitive, and had a question.
A true Christmas? What’s a true Christmas?
Here came the mother revealing the story of the blessed son of God, Jesus.
The boy was ecstatic at the prospect of being in the Divine presence of Swami.
Scene Two had the depiction of Mother Mary and Archangel wherein the angel informed Mary of the greatest boon she had received of bearing His own son.
Hearing of the Divine birth of Jesus, the little inquisitive mind of Teo raised some more doubts to his ever loving mother. This time he was referring to his Bal Vikas teacher who taught him about Swami’s birth as Divine Birth, who had selected Mother Easwaramma as His chosen Mother.
Wise Mothers, Mother Mary and Mother Easwaramma had taught their sons, Jesus and Swami truth and righteousness and they had been exemplary good children who kept their mother’s teachings in their hearts with love and respect.
Now, Little Teo wanted to know the secret behind keeping the teachings in their hearts.
Scene Number three had the answer to this question wherein Jesus along with his parents were attending a Jewish festival in Jerusalam. Jesus got lost in the jostling crowd, went to the nearby temple to listen to the speech of the high priest. Panic stricken parents, especially Mother Mary went around in search of her son finally to find him in the temple listening to the sermons.
To a worried mother, Little Jesus quipped with affirmation of faith in Greater Heaven. “Mother! Why should you fear? Those who believe in the world will have fears. But why should anyone who believes in God fear at all? I am in the company of my Father. You taught me that God is everything for us. How, then can you worry like this?”
…And the Children Choir burst open with the famous song, “Why Fear when I am here….” , apt for the situation.
As Mother kept narrating the story of Jesus to an ever inquisitive Teo, passing through the great mission of the Son of God, the mission of Love, Little Teo was equally getting evolved taking cue from the life of Jesus.
Jesus’s unconditional selfless love was portrayed depicting his many a sermon to his followers, that included loving one’s own enemies, doing good to those who hates him etc.
Now, having heard enough on Jesus, Little Teo wanted to know whether he could pray to Jesus the way he would do to Swami. He asked, “Can I talk to Jesus the way I talk to Swami? Is it the same?” Mother was affirmative, more than convincing of Little Teo about Jesus Christ’s Divinity.
Hearing a famous Christian prayer addressed to the Holy Heavenly Father, Little Teo felt that the prayer was similar to that of Swami’s.
“Oh! Lord, take my love and let it flow in fullness of devotion to Thee,
Oh! Lord, take my hands and let them work incessantly for Thee,
Oh! Lord, take my soul and let it be merged in one with Thee,
Oh! Lord, take my mind and thoughts and let them be in tune with Thee,
Oh! Lord, take my everything and let me be an instrument to work for Thee”.
Mother was very happy and advised the son to keep the prayer always in his heart telling him that these prayers are gifts from God. Little Teo was more than excited to keep the same within his heart to keep repeating every day. ..And needless to say that Little Teo was in all ecstasy at the prospect of being in the Divine Presence, and so were his parents.
Teo was indeed a common representative of global children from Sai fraternity who always look forward to the Advent of wintry December to be in the Divine Presence of Swami at Prasanthi Nilayam.
Swami had said, there is no other place in the world where Christmas is celebrated with more holiness, brotherhood, and love than in Prasanthi Nilayam. Indeed, Christmas in Swami’s presence is a real opportunity to have the chance to truly experience His Divine Love!
And this “Love that Conquers” was what in store after the curtain was drawn for the Christmas Drama 2009. While the drama had the depiction of a story telling the Advent of Jesus, the real drama happened when The Lord “entertained” the children with His explicit, unsullied love, post the drama presentation.
In an untiring session that lasted for almost an hour Bhagawan went amidst them to photograph with the drama and choir team, blessing them in abundance. Bhagawan created a chain for the cast of Jesus while all the boys were given safari pieces and the girls got blessed with sarees, including the conductor and drama director and assistants. Disciplined and devoted children formed a beeline going one after one, most reverentially with folded hands, to receive the gift of love from His Divine Hands. One of the helping hands in the Children Choir also was blessed with a ring.
While the event was a perfect show of love by children reciprocated multifold by Bhagawan’s all conquering love, it was not all easy for the drama troupe to get the same done just within two weeks.
The theme was selected from over 12 entries, scripts submitted through a “competition” conducted for the purpose, well in advance and what went in favour for the Latin American entry was perhaps the reference to Mother Easwaramma and her greater love for her Divine Child along with the story of Jesus while depicting Mother Mary, said the Drama Director Coni Avila Benitez from Mexico who has been a devotee for over eighteen years.
None of the children in the drama were of English speaking and the voice over had to be done in English with the help of Balvikas children from the US, ably managed by Victoria Hargreaves, from Santa Barbara, California, who directed Christmas Drama in 2008. Though no practice was possible before their arrival in Prasanthi Nilayam, script was made well in advance, casts were identified and scripts were sent out to the participants to do “homework” in advance. “As the practice session progressed steadily, children grew more enthusiastic at the prospect of presenting the drama in His Divine Presence” said Coni Avila who was specially blessed by Bhagawan on the eventful evening.
“The Children were Balvikas students from Latin America, speaking Spanish and Portuguese. They come from Mexico to Argentina and thus could not practise until they grouped together on the 13th Dec at Prasanthi”, said John Behner, International Coordinator for Christmas in Prasanthi on the hard-side of the saga of Christmas 2009. The Choir was the largest we have ever had, but children worked hard and they learnt the songs for both choir and drama by practising twice a day for 12 days in the run up to the festivity. Every day we told them a story about Jesus or Swami from their childhood days so that their practice had lots of human values added”, added John Behner who was full of praise for the wonderful children who made the day a ‘Happy Day” for the Lord.
The drama had eight hymns aptly intertwined and sung by the Children Choir taking their total tally to an array of eighteen hymns.
Previous evening witnessed Bhagawan blessing some of the Russian devotees conversing with them and even materializing a ring for one of them. The ring was tight on his finger and Bhagawan had promised him to change it. Upon completing the photo shoot Bhagawan asked for the Russian devotee to materialize a fitting ring that was received with round of applause.
Children made their day, by offering their unsullied love for The Lord and The Lord was up with a Million Bounty, reciprocating their love. During the photo shoot when Bhagawan called for the drama director, Coni Avila there was a comment from a senior devotee, “this is a Mexican Revolution”. Indeed it was not alone Teo who was transformed on the beautiful evening. In fact, Teo was a symbolic representation of many a heart, who underwent the transformation, receiving His bounty of Love and that was “True Christmas” at Prasanthi Nilayam.