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  • The lighting of the Park Avenue memorial trees in front of Brick Presbyterian Church Sunday, December 3. Photo: Annie Watt

According to news reports, among the first things Matt Lauer did after getting fired from the Today Show for alleged — and, to a degree, admitted — sexual indiscretions, was hop in his car to tell his 16-year-old son. And how we need to hear more about that — and in general, how offspring and other family/platonic loves get such short shrift in a sensually-charged culture, (Hey, even the Rockefeller Christmas tree-lighting is like a rock concert! More on that later in the column.)

Surely Lauer’s most profound regret is how he has harmed his three children. And do consider how stressing the family suffering might help, in this case, to prevent sexual misconduct and harassment.

And you high-profile perpetrators — from the media especially! — must put this high on your “making amends” list.

Related to family love, let’s return the Rockefeller Tree lighting to a time when Glenn Close reverently sang “Away in a Manger.” Besides, it was more environmentally friendly when the great noble tree wasn’t smothered with lights and the audience did not screech – did not screech!

But what the Season is so much about are what the Park Avenue Memorial Trees stand for, and are so often taken for granted. And few know the reason for their presence on the Park Avenue islands from the first December Sunday through Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

The reason for the Trees or the Season must not be obscured by the prime-timed sexual sin scandals. Those reasons were given voice by the Rev. Michael Lindvall in front of Brick Presbyterian Church last year. Lindvall recently retired from his Brick post, but because his message must not “retire” we share some of it here — particularly his words of inclusion:

“Christians of all denominations, Jews, Muslims, those who struggle with belief and those who cannot believe, in all our variety, know that all — all — are welcome,” he said.

He recalled how the Memorial Trees custom came into being in 1945, just after World War II. Every year since, the trees have the honored men and women who sacrificed their lives for freedom during that conflict.

Lindvall’s words always returned us to everyday life: “These lights also celebrate the city of New York, to its neighborhoods and our will to be a community in the anonymous and diversity of a huge city. Our gathering here in the dark and the cold is to celebrate light which would defy all the forces that work to divide and discourage us. These lights on the hawthorn bushes anticipate Hanukkah’s miracle of lights later this month. These lights strung on the pine trees anticipate the birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace and the light of the world.”

As for peace on earth — never more needed is Lindvall’s prayer for leaders of our city, our nation, our world, that we may at last beat our spears into pruning hooks and all the swords into plowshares. Amen!

There was more, of course, and Lindvall never forgot to thank those who donate to the Fund for Park Avenue and all who tirelessly work to make this all meaningful New York tradition possible. And thank you, Pastor Lindvall, for 15 years of working to make Brick Church and the city into caring communities. There’s a long way to go and your words during last year’s lighting ceremony must illuminate the way.

There was joyful music, of course, with people singing carols — singing together is so good for what ails us — peace and good will music ... a major “soulution.”

And so is experiencing Park Avenue after sundown now — so quietly lovely it is. And may the able-bodied enable those who are not to share this blessed experience. Indeed, make such enabling automatic all year. It can be done if enough of us try.

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