It’s Christmas! I get up at 4 am to go to the mandir as instructed by our longtime friend and assistant in Puttaparthi, Vijay Sai. I walk the block to the ashram, enter the gates, leave my shoes at the gent’s rack, and walk to the mandir, seeing a long line of men sitting beside the gates as I expected. I walk past them all, more and more men in rows sitting next to each other along the way. I get to the end of the line, ask the sevadal whether to sit, and he directs me to keep on walking past the line somewhere in the distance. I walk and see a small line of men gathered, looking a bit confused about what to do. I join the confused group. As I’m standing there, I realize I’m not frustrated or upset; I’m going with the flow, looking at the mandir and decorations, listening to chanting going on as the gents and ladies walk around outside the mandir, enjoying Christmas morning at Baba’s ashram.

After five or ten minutes, we’re asked to move a bit closer to the main mandir gates, and I’m standing among Russians (many come to Baba’s ashram), other nationalities that aren’t Indian, and I thought I heard someone say something about this being an overseas line. Therefore, with reason, I thought that was our designation and why we were standing together. Finally, we’re called into the mandir, just our group! OK, what’s going on, there are all these other guys waiting in long lines, and we’re up first?! I don’t question, and I end up leading the line into the empty mandir, excluding sevadals who are setting up. We’re instructed to line up against one of the walls of the mandir, we wait for about ten minutes, and then we’re instructed to walk up and sit at the front of the mandir, just in front of Baba’s Samadhi!!! Again, I don’t question, and just sit with our group, joining another group of men to our right.

I notice most of the men in my group are wearing badges or flowers (like a corsage for prom), and the group to the right of me made up of Japanese, some Indians, and others are all wearing identical blue and silver scarves. Just before I sit down, I’m handed a Xeroxed handout with Christmas carols. I notice the first row of gents has instruments. I notice the musical director of the group next to me instructing one of the instrumentalists. Then the ladies come in to the right of all the gents and sit down, some with instruments, and I notice their choir director.

I think you’ve caught on, which I did, that I’m sitting with choirs. I look around for other unsuspecting, innocent gents who are not members of the choir, trying to pinpoint some so I don’t feel alone. It doesn’t matter. I look over the pamphlet with the songs to brush up on some old Christmas carols, and learn some new ones. I’m ready for whatever comes, as I take in the Shakti of Baba and opportunity the day has presented to me.

We sit there for half an hour until 6:30 when the choir director takes his position in front of us (I like him: he’s animated, smiles a lot, and is very dynamic and loving his seva). The instruments play, he motions for us to get ready, and we’re off singing. The men I came with are not part of the group to the right of me that he is instructing, but some of us join in. I am thrilled, loving the carols, fully engaged with the choir, a full choir member looking down at my copy and up to the choir director to keep time with the group.

As I refer to the handout now, we begin with Gaudete (I don’t know that one), then The First Nowell (spelled that way; I know that one!), the Angel’s Carol, We Three Kings (I know that one!). O Come, O Come Emmanuel, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (I love that one!), Mary Did You Know (this has a great line at the end: “This sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great I Am. Mary did you know?”), Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (yes, yes!), O Come All Ye Faithful (yes, yes, yes!), and finally Joy To the World which for some reason we don’t sing, I think because of time. I’m rejoicing however, sending great joy to the world, having lived this once-in-a-lifetime, sacred moment with others, performing for and giving ourselves to Baba and Master Jesus.

Thank you Baba, thank you Master, thank you Maa, and a very Merry Christmas to one and all. Let us rejoice together this time of birth and rebirth, of love and devotion, of celebration in our togetherness. Whatever country, nationality, religion, spiritual path … or choir affiliation.