Queensland Christmas Activities
Regional Nursing Home Concerts were held at Berlasco Court and MS QLD – a fun and upbeat concert prepared for the nursing homes where the audience was taken on a journey to experience Christmas around the world. The final destination of the North Pole featured a surprise visit from Santa who danced onto the stage bring laughter, smiles and chocolate gifts for the audience.
Toowoomba Christmas donations were made to Mission Australia (where groceries were lovingly distributed to the local Refugee community) and to the Toowoomba Youth Service (where food and Christmas goodies are given to the homeless youth). Grocery donations were also made to ‘Vital Connections,’ based in Brisbane, which used the groceries to prepare delicious meals for the homeless.
ACT Region’s Christmas Service
ACT Region marked the Christmas season with a Christmas Service on Saturday, 15 December 2018 at the Erindale Neighbourhood Centre, a charming venue owned by the ACT Government and managed by the Tuggeranong Uniting Church.
The altar had a Christmas theme featuring the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to signify ‘Divine Love’. Love has always been associated with the heart; so it was only natural that God’s Love was represented by a heart, the heart of his son Jesus. In him, God the Father revealed his infinite love for all of us. The altar had also other symbolism including the colour red which symbolises the first Christmas and the sacrifice made by the saviour for all, the Christmas tree (an evergreen fir) symbolising everlasting life with the needles pointing heavenward, the star on the Christmas tree representing the heavenly sign of a prophesy fulfilled long ages ago, the candle reflecting our thanks to the star of Bethlehem, the wreath symbolising the eternal nature of love, having no beginning or ending and the nativity scene, a very special exhibition of objects representing the birth of Jesus.
In addition, this year for the very first time, Sai followers attending the celebration brought gifts in response to Barnardos Australia’s Christmas gift appeal titled ‘Gifts for Kids’. These gifts were left near the altar for delivery to Barnardos to be distributed to disadvantaged children in Australia. A handmade Christmas card by the Ladies Wing was also left near the altar. This card was later signed by all those who attended the event and was taken to Puttaparthi and presented at Sathya Sai Baba’s Mahasamadhi (the conscious departure from the physical body of a realized soul and also the shrine where the physical body is buried). Artwork by the SSE children presenting the history of Christmas traditions as gift giving, Santa Claus, the Christmas tree and Christmas Meals adorned the walls of the hall.
The program began with Krishna, the Master of Ceremonies (MC), welcoming 40 guests to the Christmas Service. The first item was an Opening Prayer, a Christmas Prayer by Pope John Paul XXIII, recited by all those who had congregated that day. Next was a drama offering by Group 3 Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) children titled “Christmas in All the Lands”, and in this offering the children showed how Christmas is celebrated in unique ways in different parts of the world. They came to the understanding that while Christmas traditions in each country can differ the underlying theme was one of faith, love, joy and compassion towards the less fortunate.
The third item on the program was the singing of Christmas carols, which included The Little Drummer Boy, Away in the Manger, Silent Night, Joy to the world, Jingle Bells and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. The beautiful carols with excellent musical accompaniment gladdened the hearts of all present.
Next, Krishna introduced the Guest Speaker, Gabriel Joseph, a Catholic with deep knowledge of Christian values and Civil Engineer by trade and working as a Senior Manager at ACT Transport to deliver a talk titled the ‘Significance of Christmas and the Message of Christ’. Key highlights from his talk are given below:
- Two sides to Christmas, i.e. the Commercial side with Christmas trees, decorations, presents and Santa and the spiritual side. He was here to talk about the commercial side of Christmas
- Christmas means “Christ’s Mass” and so a Mass or get together without Christ is meaningless.
- Jesus is a gift from God wrapped in swaddling clothes and sent to a manger.
- Why did God send this gift? It was because Adam and Eve did not live up his standards. God sent his only son to redeeming the humanity.
- Worldly celebration should be replaced with God-centred activities.
- Why is Christmas celebrated? It is celebrated because Lord did come to redeem us and we look upon Jesus as our Saviour and Redeemer
- What did he do for us? He preached love and joy for all with the focus on all who needed help.
- Do we understand his teachings? His teachings are: ‘We are to Love God’ and ‘Love our neighbour as ourselves’ and ‘Love one other’.
- He healed not only the physically sick but also the spiritually sick.
- If Jesus was to reach the lost, He must have some contact with them and so he mingled not only with sinners but also He mingled with the orphans and widows who were neglected in the Jewish culture at the time. Jesus didn’t let social status or cultural norms dictate his relationships with people. As the Good Shepherd, he sought the lost sheep wherever they had strayed.
- God loves us irrespective of what we do. Where is God in our lives?
- Our Life should revolve around God and we should not have God in the outer circle with the rest of our family and friends.
- Surrender is getting one’s freedom by giving yourself to God and this freedom forces to love thy neighbour.
- If I speak in the tongues of angels, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. Love does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking. Love never fails and is unconditional.
- A man was walking along a narrow path, not paying much attention to where he was going. Suddenly he slipped over the edge of a cliff. As he fell, he grabbed a branch growing from the side of the cliff. Realizing that he couldn’t hang on for long, he called for help.Man: Is anybody up there? Voice: Yes, I’m here! Man: Who’s that? Voice: The Lord. Man: Lord, help me! Voice: Do you trust me? Man: I trust you completely, Lord. Voice: Good. Let go of the branch. Man: What???Voice: I said, let go of the branch. Man: [After a long pause]. Is anybody else up there? It got a pretty good laugh, but the essence of the story was to Learning to really trust God in the way that He wants you to fully trust Him is an all-or-nothing principle.
Following the very insightful talk was some devotional singing, and then a video on Sathya Sai Baba’s discourse in which HE stresses that it is not Merry or Happy Christmas and that Christmas celebrations be sanctified by referring to it as Holy Christmas.
The last two items on the program were the Christian Prayer and vote of thanks by the ACT Region’s President, Mayavan. Mayavan reminded all of the significance of the Christmas, and marvelled at the coincidence or Sai-incidence of the guest speaker giving a very universal message with a number of commonalities between his talk and that of Sathya Baba’s divine discourse that all had listened to that day. He thanked the Young Adults for setting up the altar and for bringing to his attention the Barnardos Australia’s Christmas gift appeal which resulted in all bringing a gift for a disadvantaged child. He also thanked the SSE children for the play and the singers and instrumentalists for their unwavering commitment. Mayavan encouraged all to sign the Christmas Card made by the Ladies Wing and wished everyone a Holy Christmas and New Year as the last regional activity for the year came to an end. The Christmas Service not only touched the hearts and souls of everyone present but also brought forth the message of universality of love and divinity.
Queen Victoria Markets Christmas Celebration
We had a wonderful time on the night of Thursday 20th December at the Queen Victoria Market.
By Sai Baba`s grace, everyone who joined us on the streets were so happy & enjoyed the Christmas Celebration organised by VIC Regions East and West. Our Sai devotees who were behind the scene worked very hard to prepare a variety of yummy food, packing Christmas gifts & goodies for the homeless and our carol singers sang beautifully, making this service event very special.
Christmas Events in VIC East
Dandenong Market Christmas Celebration
On Tuesday 18th December about 220 people attended a Christmas function at the Dandenong Market specially held for the homeless people who regularly attend the weekly feeding at this venue. The attendees were guests, devotees, children, young adults and adults who had a joyous and enjoyable time. The young adults entertained everyone with Christmas Carols and English songs. The food was sumptuous and plentiful, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the celebration. The day ended with Father Christmas giving presents and children giving special hand-made Christmas cards with messages of love to all the guests.
3C’s Christmas Celebration
Christmas Celebrations continued on to 20th December hosted by the Sai centres of Clayton, Clarinda and Cheltenham. The program was well planned with Q&A, a drama by SSE children, Christmas Carols thoughtfully spread throughout the program, English devotional songs and Father Christmas giving presents and lollies to all devotees and children. At the end of the program, the devotees were asked to write messages of love on Christmas cards to be given to nursing home residents at the Nursing Home Service later in the week.
The day started with bright sunshine and a message was sent to everyone that the picnic was going ahead. The previous day it was pouring rain as there was so much uncertainty about the weather. But Sai Baba would not let us down and our prayers were answered. The weather turned out to be just perfect, with about forty children, young adults and adults attending the picnic at Lysterfield Lake Park, a beautiful setting along the lake amongst the luscious greens. There was plenty of food, beverages and good company. It was most enjoyable was to see the young adults and children fully occupied in playing outdoor games, while some adults enjoyed the walk along the lake and the park.
Nursing Home Service
The final Community Engagement program for the month was a visit to two nursing homes.
On 23rd December, young adults, SSE children and adults visited two nursing homes and entertained the residents by singing carols, and kept them engaged with questions and answers. Two young adults dressed as elves entertained everyone with lots of humour and fun.
The elderly always value and cherish handwritten messages, so the messages of greetings written by devotees at 3C’s celebrations were distributed to all the nursing home residents at the end of the visit. Father Christmas also gave small hand-made mementos to all the elderly residents who were very grateful and joyful on this special day.
SA Christmas Celebrations and Christmas Choir
WA Christmas Celebrations
The WA Region celebrated Christmas on the 16th of December, with the children’s choir and Band of Love singing Christmas Carols, inspiring talks and a play performance by the adults. The festive season has become a wasteful, consumer driven and stressful time. This play highlighted a few ways to have a green, sustainable and environmentally friendly Christmas! The event was topped off with a visit by Santa and sharing of a meal.
Seniors Multicultural Christmas Celebration by NSW Region West
The highly anticipated Seniors Multicultural Christmas celebrations was an enthralling, enrapturing and exhilarating experience, a program that seniors all around western Sydney had been waiting for! For the 6th year in a row, this event has brought joy to the lives of 300 over seniors and lit up the hearts of both the SAI Sevadals and all those lovely grand senior ladies and men.
Simply incredible to see each and every member so lovingly and beautifully carrying out Bhagawan’s most important teaching of “LOVE ALL SERVE ALL” in many different ways, to the community at large.
This function was an irreplaceable gift to the seniors, not only showering them with happiness and love but also giving them an opportunity to spend time with loved ones, whilst mingling with new friends. The program was filled with music which lifted the roof and got everyone of their seats. The Chinese, Serbian, Iranian, Spanish, Bhutanese, Turkish and Indian-Fijian seniors gave others a taste of their culture by singing and dancing to songs close to their respective cultures. Special performances by both the Sydwest Organization and Team Expansion, made everyone really feel the spirit of Christmas around them.
It is always a very special day of service to the aged, frail, sick and the lonely. This occasion gave The Sathya Sai International Organization of Australia, the privilege to serve the elderly in many different ways, promoting the Christmas spirit of giving throughout the day. The Organization was awarded a certificate of appreciation for all effort put into making this program complete and spectacular. Overall, the program brought a sudden energy and feeling to the seniors giving them the best Christmas present anyone could ask for – the company of a united family.
NSW Region East
On Sunday 9 December the Sai Unity Christmas was held at St Brigids Church Marrickvile. There were quite a number of people assembled in the sacred environment of the beautiful Catholic Church.
What they were rewarded with was a wonderful program; starting with group of children of all ages being led down the centre aisle by Teresa Cossa bearing a light which she placed on a Christmas shrine that was set up on the altar. Acknowledgement of the traditional owners started the proceedings.
Following on were some inspiring readings which were well chosen for the occasion taken from the Christian scriptures. Then the guest speaker Mr Kingsley Prabhar related his early life in Sri Lanka, where he was born into a Christian family and received a similar education. But his deepest prayer and earnest wish was for God to somehow get him out of the strife-torn country. Sai Baba was unknown to him at that time but a quite remarkable experience in the Australian High Commission which occurred just when he had been unceremoniously rejected from the building, had him wondering who it was that was looking after him. It culminated in his surprising immigration acceptance to come to Australia over 40 years ago.
Once in Australia he wasted no time tapping into the excitement that this new land offered, but before long had prolonged mental conversations with a voice informing him that such a way of life was to put it mildly not in his best interests. In due course he realised who Sai Baba was and who had been guiding him and also became associated with the Uniting Church in Sydney. He began engaging in a range of service activities which continue and expand to the present day. Overall an excellent personal story featuring the gift of giving of ‘time and talent’….. so appropriate for the Christmas season.
Then the Sai Youth Choir took centre stage singing a line-up of traditional Carols with all the participants joining in. The group consisted of pre-schoolers to late teenagers and some young adults with excellent musicians supporting the group. Finally several readers presented a series of excerpts from some of Sai Baba’s Christmas discourses through the years. These clarified and emphasised what a spiritually momentous and historic event the coming of Jesus and his teachings was to the people back then and so relevant in today’s context.
Finally the Region President Mrs Selvi Ramanan gave a vote of thanks which was followed by refreshments. This was a good introduction to what the true underlying theme of Christmas is about. It was a very uplifting program indeed.