Ananda Family News

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Eve and Christmas

Christmas Eve night began with a 2-hour meditation, and then the service lasted from 10 PM to midnight. The service was like a reinterpretation of our usual Sunday services, customized and restructured for Christmas.  So it was fun to experience some of the same elements, but with fresh eyes and ears, as it were, because of the changed context.

There was a great deal of music, including Christmas carols, and small-ensemble performances of various Oratorio pieces, and other songs by Swami Kriyananda, such as "The Life Mantra." Pavani (formerly Clare) danced to an instrumental version of "O Come All Ye Faithful," after which the congregation sang the verses while various members of "the faithful" came forwarded and offered roses to the baby Jesus on the altar.

All of this was worked into an extended version of the Festival of Light, which culminated in a very appropriately festive display of lights. The main area of the temple was dark, with all the light on the stage and altar, but everybody had picked up a small votive candle on their way into service. David and Asha walked down the aisle lighting the votives from their larger candles, and the flame was passed along, candle to candle, down each row until the entire temple was dotted with little flickering lights. Then the entire assembly performed the arati together, offering their lights up to Jesus and the masters. Then we all lined up to receive the blessing from the light-bearers, after which everyone placed their candles on the altar until the entire galaxy of little stars had pooled there around the baby Jesus.

The Christmas Day service was specifically very kid- and family-oriented. It was less like a service, and more like Asha narrating a live-action performance of the Christmas story, interspersed with more of Swami's music as well as traditional Christmas songs. Though targeted at children, the presentation of the story was quite illuminating from an adult's perspective, as well.

This service also had its own version of the Festival of Light, though considerably abbreviated in this case. By the end of the story, the stage was covered with angels and wise men (of all ages), surrounding the holy family. The audience was then invited to come up and pay their own respects to the baby Jesus. In the process, if you crouched down far enough, various of the smaller angels and wise men would shower you with glitter and confetti blessings. Some of the taller ones were light-bearers in disguise, and offered the more usual blessing with candles. It was a delightful combination.

Afterwards there was a Christmas banquet. I was unfortunately unable to attend, but if anyone wants to tell us about it, just click the "comment" link below. (Have I mentioned that you can comment on the blog posts now? You can! If you're reading this via email, click the title of the post to go to the web page where you can comment.)

See more photos of Christmas day from Suman and Karen.

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