Hudson Valley churchgoers reflected on messages of hope and peace on Christmas Day 2012 after a week filled with sorrow for the region and nation.
Perhaps nowhere was that more true that at St. Mary's of The Assumption Roman Catholic Church in Katonah, where on Thursday mourners gathered to remember Anne Marie Murphy, killed along with 20 children and five other adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14.
"In a time of suffering and sorrow, the message is peace and hope," said Carl Hoynos of Dallas after Christmas morning Mass at the church.
Parishioners at the church said that this Christmas, they were especially cherishing time with families.
"We also feel sorrow for these children and their parents," said Mike Herrero of Katonah. "We have to be thankful for what we have and know that God is always with us."
In his sermon, the Rev. Jason Smith of the Legionaries of Christ in New York alluded to the tragedy as he spoke to a congregation filled with families, children and toddlers decked out in red dresses and bows.
"We live in a world that is full of sin. That is clear. We don't need to look beyond the chaos of the last century or even the last week to realize that," Smith said.
But, he said, the birthday of Jesus Christ, which Christians celebrated Tuesday, is a reminder of God's true love.
"Make a new light be spread to all," Smith said.
After a Christmas Eve celebration at the Bronxville Reformed Church, parishioner Dan Johnson said he was focusing on having a joyous celebration in what has otherwise been a rather difficult week.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with those families in Newtown," Johnson said.
In Greenburgh, about 75 community members gathered to sing in front of Richard J. Bailey Elementary School on Christmas morning instead of caroling at local senior citizen homes. James Robinson, a co-founder of Fathers and Children Together, organized a caroling tribute to the Newtown victims.
"It's touching that in such a short period of time the Greenburgh community would come out and support the families of Newtown," Robinson said.
Those gathered sang a medley of "Let It Snow" and "I'm Dreaming of A White Christmas" and offered prayers and a moment of silence. They also signed a giant card with a poem about Newtown, offering solace and sympathies to the community.
At the end of the event, community members released six white balloons for the adult victims and 20 green balloons for the children.
"This Christmas, I'm going to embrace my family more," said Theresa Robinson, a director of the after-school program at Bailey. "We just have to embrace each other ... God is going to get them through this."