Christmas. The very utterance of this nine-lettered divine word immediately conjures up images so lovely and lively – from twinkling stars, shining bells, glistening Christmas trees, colorful candles, variegated lights and gleaming snows on shop windows to plenty of cookies and cakes, heaps of tastefully wrapped gifts in red and white, long-awaited get-togethers with family and friends, lavish Christmas parties and much more. Celebrated by more than two billion people on the planet, it is the granddaddy of all celebrations. Truly, “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world,” as Norman Vincent Peale said, “And behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
And the timing is so appropriate – at the end of the year. It is like a grand finale to a whole year of humdrum routine and wading through the vicissitudes of life. Everybody now wants to relax, sport a smile and wish for happiness, joy and fun. The British Post Office handles over one hundred million cards each day, in the three weeks before Christmas. Between thirty-four to thirty-six million Christmas trees are produced every year to cope with the Christmas demand. An average person in the UK spends at least three hundred pounds in gifts and much more in food, drink and socializing. It is carnival time, unrestrained and fun-filled. In fact, in the modern times, they say, ‘Christmas is hijacked from Jesus by Santa’.
Though all Christians dutifully go to Church, attend midnight mass, listen to the story of Jesus’ birth and observe the rituals, what weighs in most of their minds is what kind of earrings should I gift my mom, which brand of shirt should I present my dad and which cycle to buy for my junior; very few ponder what should I offer to the One in whose name I celebrate this glorious festival. And there lies a glimpse of the true spirit of Christmas.
Is Christmas a celebration only for Christians? Who is a Christian? And who is Jesus really? Every Christmas we hear the story of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Saviour, who was born to Mary and Joseph in a manger in Bethlehem. But why did God choose the Virgin Mary? Why in a manger? Why was it Bethlehem? Is it a divine accident? Again, why at a time when Herod was the king, because of which infant Jesus had to be carried to Egypt? Could all this not be avoided? Ok, it was divine plan. But is it that God just wanted an interesting story surrounding His birth, or is there a lesson for us in every single twist of this divine story? What is it that mankind has to ‘take home’ from this tremendously significant event in history which changed the socio-economic-cultural-politico-spiritual and demographic profile of the world forever? The cover story of this issue is a sincere attempt to unravel these mysteries.
It is not an extrapolation of our interpretations; rather it is a sharing of our understanding of what He has revealed about Himself. Whether we accept it or not, realize it or not, we, living in the current era, are extremely fortunate. For, the same divine saga that was enacted two thousand years ago is being enacted now, albeit in a different setting and format, to suit the needs of the current times. When you read the cover story, you will know that, in fact, it is the same drama that was performed even five thousand years ago. Out of immense love and concern for man, the crest jewel of His creation, the cosmic consciousness encapsulates Himself in human frame time and again, but the message and the mission always remains the same.
“Christ sacrificed his life for the sake of those who put their faith in Him. The birthday of Jesus must be celebrated by all mankind, for such Divine personalities who are born with a purpose belong to the whole human race. They should not be confined to a single country or community,” said Bhagavan Baba in His Christmas discourse in 1970. And December 25 every year in Prasanthi Nilayam is a living testimony to this statement of Baba when thousands belonging to different faiths assemble, light candles, sing carols and share their joy. To relive those precious moments of pure love, we have for you a special Photo Album entitled “Christmas Bliss.”
As you immerse yourself in this bliss, pray that you remain in that state of total contentment forever, and as Baba says, “Be like Jesus, whose only joy was in spreading Divine Love, offering Divine Love, receiving Divine Love and living on Divine love.”
In fact, this is exactly the message that Bhagawan again reiterated in His just concluded wonderful 81st birthday celebrations, of which we have detailed accounts and plenty of pictures in our Prasanthi Diary. On the Birthday morning, Baba said, “Love for God is like the main switch. If you have love for God, you have everything; without it, everything is nothing.”
The nine-lettered ‘Christmas’ is like the nine paths of devotion starting with C, which can be referred to Chanting of His name, through the middle ‘S’ symbolizing Surrender, leading to the final ‘S’ of Salvation. “Christ taught people to love all beings and serve with compassion. It is only by practicing these ideals that one can truly celebrate His birthday”, Bhagavan says.
In this holy month of December, let’s fill not only our hearts with His love but also radiate it to all our friends and foes, relatives and neighbors alike, just as Jesus did then and our beloved Sai does every single day. Let us shine through the purification of our inner selves.
Let us engulf the world with love and joy celebrating His advent. A Happy and Merry Christmas to all!