Thanksgiving in New York

My daughter Ellie invited the family to join her for Thanksgiving in New York, and she promised to cook the turkey.  So we went, piling into the car at 4:30 on Wednesday morning in an effort to beat the morning rush hour(s) in DC.  We made it, and without further traffic worries we zoomed up I-95 and onto the New Jersey Turnpike, skipped the Lincoln Tunnel option into New York, sailed over the Hudson River on the George Washington bridge, and eased down Broadway to 137th Street, arriving at approximately 11:30 a.m.  There was Ellie, just coming up from the subway station, and walking down the sidewalk to greet us.

Ellie lives in Spanish Harlem, which has a very family-friendly feel to it.  Parents walk down the sidewalks holding their children’s hands, friendly shopkeepers call out greetings to their regular customers, a woman at the top of the subway stairs sells “Tamales!  Tamales!” and the village “elders” congregate on the park benches on the island in the middle of Broadway.  It always reminds me of Sesame Street, except that I hardly ever run into any of the Muppets.

We went upstairs to Ellie’s sixth-floor apartment and spent the rest of the afternoon cooking some of the dishes for the next day’s Thanksgiving feast.  Around five o’ clock we went downtown to watch them inflate the giant helium balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  There was a huge crowd of people there, but somehow we got funneled into the line that went past Shrek, Sponge Bob Square Pants, the Kool Aid guy, Kermit the Frog, Snoopy, Kung Fu Panda, Spiderman, Horton the Elephant, Buzz Lightyear, the Energizer Bunny, and the biggest Smurf I have ever seen, all of them lying face down on the pavement with nets thrown over them to keep them from floating away.  For those of us who have been watching the Macy’s parade for years, it was like seeing celebrities close up.  I took pictures and tried to get some autographs (no luck).

In order to accommodate everyone’s schedule we decided to have a Thanksgiving brunch around 10:30 the next morning, which forced Ellie to get up at 5:00 to put the turkey in the oven.  But she didn’t complain, not even when she got up again at 6:00 and then again at 7:00 to baste the bird.  By eight o’clock she was in full gear, cooking side dishes on the stove top and filling the apartment with delicious smells. 

My brother Billy made the trip over from Brooklyn, arriving just in time to watch Ellie’s friend Nick, a chef from Australia, sharpen his knife and make short work of the turkey.  By 10:30 we were sitting around a makeshift table, covered with a designer tablecloth, and thanking God for the abundance of food on the table, and the friends and family all around it (and the turkey was outstanding!).

Somehow, along with all the family stories, we ended up sharing our favorite You Tube videos for a good part of the afternoon (have you seen “Unicorn after Wisdom Teeth”?  Hi-larious).   We feasted on leftovers, laughed at almost everything, and eventually went out on the town to see a movie at Lincoln Center.  We left New York at 2:00 on Friday after a leisurely lunch at a neighborhood restaurant.  Everybody must have been shopping on the day after Thanksgiving, because there was virtually no traffic on the highways.  We were at home in Richmond by 8:30 that night, a scant six-and-a-half hours later (and, of all the things I was thankful for, safe and traffic-free travel was near the top of the list).

I don’t know where I will spend Thanksgiving next year, but I do know this: God is good wherever you are, and wherever you are God is good.

The Messiah Goes to Macy’s

If people won’t come to church, church can come to them, right?  Here’s a good example: the Opera Company of Philadelphia went to Macy’s Center City and burst into the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.  It’s amazing to see how many shoppers joined in and sang along, especially when you consider what they were singing.  In spite of the opera’s claim that this was a “Random Act of Culture,” the words are decidedly counter-cultural:  “Hallelujah, for the Lord God, the Omnipotent, reigneth!” 

You won’t find that in many of Macy’s ads.

Enjoy the show, and then maybe you can join me in spending as much time thinking about how to get church to people as we usually spend thinking about how to get people to church.

Special thanks to my friend Ron Smith for passing this video along to me.