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Church of Jesus Christ’s “Silent Night Surprise” Lights Up Times Square

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UPDATE: The full video has been released! Watch it here.

A surprise from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was unveiled Monday night as 15 digital displays in Times Square lit the area with Christmas messages.

Hundreds gathered in the area, including Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife Mary. 

Earlier this week, the Church teased the event on social media. On December 1, at 9am MST, a video documenting the event will be released on the Church’s official YouTube channel. 

The video display helped kick off the 2023 Light the World Christmas initiative in the city. Three Giving Machines were also unwrapped, allowing visitors to purchase a donation for someone in need. 

“As we start the process of hoping there will be greater light in the world, we invite all to light the world,” said Elder David Buckner, an Area Seventy. “Today we start that as a process of hope and promise and joy that the world so desperately needs.”

Giving Machines, now in their seventh year, offer a unique way to serve and care for others. Instead of buying something for yourself, your purchase is a donation for someone in need. Across machines in all locations are a combined 1,200 different items requested by carefully screened and reputable local, national and international nonprofit organizations. These include meals, groceries, shelter, clothing, healthcare, education, bedding, hygiene kits, job and career training, crops and livestock (such as chickens, goats, pigs, ducks, sheep and beehives). Patrons can type in 777 to purchase one of everything in a machine.

The majority of Giving Machines across America will open for business on Giving Tuesday, November 28. Late on Monday night, November 27, the Giving Machines in Times Square will move to their permanent Manhattan holiday location: The Church of Our Saviour at 59 Park Ave. (at 38th Street). They will be available from Giving Tuesday through January 1, 2024. In total, Giving Machines are available in 60 additional locations in seven countries.

Representatives from each of the nine participating national and global nonprofits were present for Monday’s unveiling.

  • African Girls Hope Foundation
  • American Red Cross
  • Care
  • Church World Service
  • iDE (International Development Enterprise)
  • Lifting Hands International
  • Mentors International
  • WaterAid

“We’re thrilled to be in partnership with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” said Michael J. Nyenhuis, president and CEO of UNICEF USA. “We think this is one of the really brilliant things that’s happening during the Christmas season. At a time of such division in our country and the world, this effort is really pulling people together.”

For more than a decade, the Church and UNICEF have collaborated on various projects to help children and mothers around the world.

“This is our second year of being a part of the Light the World Giving Machines, and we are so honored and excited to participate,” said Celena Roldán Sarillo, interim chief executive officer of the American Red Cross of Greater New York. “As the holiday season begins, we know many families are going to continue to face challenges. Our mission is to alleviate human suffering during times of disasters and emergencies.”

Sarillo said the American Red Cross, which provides 40% of the blood supply in the U.S., has always had a good collaboration with the Church of Jesus Christ. No other organization hosts more American Red Cross blood drives or collects more units of blood, Sarillo said.

Caroline Blayney, executive director for the Northeast Region of CARE International, said CARE has projects in over 111 countries and reaches more than 170 million people annually.

“The Light the World Giving Machines provide additional opportunities to support this work,” Blayney said. “For example, for just $25 you can purchase two chickens as well as tools and trainings so that a family in a country like Benin can start a thriving poultry business.”

Visit this August 2023 article to see some of the fruits of the collaboration between the Church of Jesus Christ and CARE International.

Katherine Rehberg, vice president of programs for Church World Service, said her organization is focused on sustainable responses to hunger, poverty, displacement and disaster.

“We are proud to have a variety of gifts in the Giving Machines this year,” Rehberg said. These include “immigration legal fees, which help reunite families and give them a boost to start their new lives in safety. You can also buy cozy wool blankets for people who are cold this winter or need extra support after a disaster. And we offer menstrual health products to help women feel more dignified and sanitary during their periods. We are extremely grateful for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for including us in this brilliant holiday tradition.”

In total, more than 250 local, national and global nonprofits are participating this year — more than all previous years combined.

“Times Square is perhaps the brightest place on the face of the earth,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan of Catholic Charities and the Archdiocese of New York. “Lighting the world is needed now more than ever. Catholic Charities is so proud to partner with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and all of these other organizations who are bringing light to what is admittedly a very dark world.”

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