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All I Want for Christmas…

We learned years ago that presents come and go, but a shared experience can last a lifetime. That realization came to us when our children reached their teens. Suddenly, birthday and Christmas shopping became a nightmare of teenage whims and social expectations that we seldom navigated with success. Presents offered by well-meaning parents were often met with disdain, or worse yet indifference, leaving the gift unused in a closet until it was later donated. It took us a while to learn our lesson, but when we did, we discovered the world of adventure. Each birthday became an opportunity to create an experience to share, from a NASCAR race to a Broadway play. And with each experience came memories for a lifetime.

Fast forward to Christmas 2023… and three granddaughters with very diverse tastes… For a Nana who loves her grandchildren but hates to shop, the prospect of finding the right gifts created untold anxiety, until we remembered the lessons learned from parenthood. Adventures create memories for a lifetime. So, this Christmas we decided to experience New York City with our granddaughters. Imagine the joy of seeing the lights, the decorations, the stores, all topped off with a Broadway musical. What could be better? It sounded magical… the stuff that dreams are made of! I had the perfect plan- a hike from the parking garage on 8th to the corner of Central Park, a little ‘window shopping’ at the Central Park Christmas village, a stroll down 5th Ave to see the Christmas windows at Bergdorf’s and Sax 5th Ave, then on to stores that are bigger-better in NYC- Legos, American Girl, FAO Schwartz, lunch at Los Tacos in Times Square and then the play. After the play, we would top off the day with a quick venture to Rockefeller Center for the Christmas lights after dark. Perfect!

But I underestimated the crowds… I had read that approximately 750,000 people visit NYC every day during the Christmas season. That’s a crowd! But this past Saturday, the crowd became a CROWD. I think a million+ of our closest friends decided to converge on Rockefeller Center just after sunset to see the tree towering above the square. We risked life and limb to press toward those famed lights, holding tight to our precious girls for fear of getting separated in the crush of humanity. Inch by painful inch we made our way to the coveted photo opportunity with ‘the Tree.’ Imagine a 12-ton, 80 ft. Norway Spruce wrapped with 50,000 colorful LED lights and topped with a 900 lb. star with 3 million crystals. The sight was stunning, the picture not quite so stunning, and then another press through the CROWD to make our way to the car. Of course, we made one last stop at the M&M store before departing, requiring a long wait in line. Each shopping excursion that day found us waiting in a long line as our ‘dear friends’ all wanted to share the New York experience with us. Our lunch plans had to change that day because the line was just too long… So many people… so crowded… so busy…

During our New York adventure, I insisted that we stop at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I needed to put a little Christ into Christmas after seeing the fancy windows on 5th Ave. Those window scenes sparkled with crystals and gold gilding, but they had nothing to do with the birth of the Savior. So, we joined the St, Patrick’s line allowing the crowd to move us up the steps, through the doors, to a spot just behind the pews. A quick pause allowed us a moment to snap a picture, then we were pressed back out onto the street. I noticed that there was a worship service happening in the front of the sanctuary as we were pressed along. The congregation of the faithful was few in number, dwarfed by the crowds just passing through. For most, St. Patrick’s is just another photo op.

Our little excursion to NYC has me thinking of Mary and Joseph that first Christmas, pressing through the crowds of Bethlehem. That night, no one noticed a young woman ready to give birth, her plight lost amid a sea of faces. That night, Bethlehem missed the opportunity to welcome the Savior of the world into their homes because life was just too full… too busy… Mark Hall, the lead vocalist for the band Casting Crowns, captures that moment in his song While You Were Sleeping:
Oh Bethlehem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
For God became a man and stepped into your world today
Oh Bethlehem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King

Oh Lenape Valley, may we not be caught sleeping this year… or so swept along by the busyness of the season that we miss the King. Instead, may we invite others to join us at the manger… for worship… for Christmas Eve candlelight… for the Messiah sing-a-long on Saturday, December 16th … and our Joy to the World Christmas Concert on Sunday evening, December 17th. Come and worship… Come and Worship… Worship Christ the newborn King.

With you singing Joy to the world- the Lord is come! 
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