We arrived in New York City on Wednesday to prepare for the big Macy’s Day Parade on Thanksgiving morning. We checked into our hotel right on Times Square. Our Thrive group from church (home small group) had been planning this trip together for more than a year. Six adults and nine children in all.

On Thursday morning (Thanksgiving) I got up at 4:30. I was down on the rail at 5:20 to save front row room for our group of fifteen. 3 million people would be vying for a spot to view the famous parade. The two other dads in our group joined me at 5:30 and 6. Still dark out (at least as dark as it can be in luminous Times Square). Temperature 31 degrees plus wind–at least it wasn’t raining.

The parade would begin marching by in about four hours at 9:30.

At 8 our families began to arrive on the scene. By 8:30 all 15 of us were present with front row vantage points. By now I had consumed multiple cups of coffee and was shivering continually. The excitement was palpable.

The first float–a turkey–came rolling by. A marching band next with drums and brass thundering. 45 minutes into the parade (which would last two hours) my ten year old daughter turned her tear stained, cold face to me and asked, “Daddy, why are you making me do this when we could be watching it on TV?” Ummm.

Friday morning we got up early once again–partly because we had no choice with an 8 month old baby sleeping (or not) in our room. We boarded the subway and headed to Macy’s Department Store to see Santa Claus. Did I mention that millions of others would be attempting the same thing?

We arrived early enough so that we only had about a thirty minute wait–excellent. It really was astonishing . . . very Disneyesque. All fifteen of us were herded into a small room where Santa awaited. All nine children were seated on Santa’s lap or around his huge gold chair. Our son, Elijah, was on Santa’s lap tugging his beard–and yes, it stayed on.

After the professional photographer (dressed as an elf) snapped the picture, one of the dads in our group shouted, “Okay, all the “white” kids over here!” Our “black” son, Elijah, was still in Santa’s lap. The elf photographer looked mortified. I explained to everyone in the room that the family name was “White” and that their dad was not making a racial slur. I thought Santa was going to fall out of his chair laughing with relief.

Saturday morning we concluded our adventure with a 10 o’clock performance of the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. I must confess that I was a bit cynical heading into it. How in the world were they going to sandwich the baby Jesus in between the high kicking legs of the Rockettes? Somehow they pulled it off. Numerous times I was moved to tears. The show certainly lived up to its name–Spectacular. And, much to my pleasant surprise the Biblical Christmas story was told, complete with live camels.

So now we’re home again. Recovering from sensory overload. Still processing the wonder, beauty and needs of a city of 8 million people.

Did I mention that there are 158 Starbucks in Manhattan? A little slice of Heaven!