Christmas in Hoboken

Matthew 1:21 “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”


In Hoboken? Yes; in Hoboken—or any other town for that matter. Approaching Hoboken at night, one can soon see that Christmas is here. The twinkling, blinking, colorful lights spell out a happy welcome to the joyous buyer entering the town. Ah, but what beautiful decorations are draped from every lamp post! The tinsel glistens and glimmers through the evergreen boughs which decorate the street. And there’s something in the air, something that seems to force out of one all that is bitter and mean and fills him with a sense of wellbeing, of brotherhood and oneness with all men—call it that “Christmas spirit” if you will.

Walking down the street, one is struck by the clever, eye-catching displays which fill every window. There, in one of the larger windows, stands a life-size, animated Santa. His belly quivers and shakes as a bowl of Jello. His merry laugh rings out again and again—to the immense satisfaction of the circle of small children gazing at him. Beside him stand his trusty reindeer—with dear Rudolph, of red-nosed fame, in the lead. Nearby, a hidden speaker blares forth with another carol, this time: “Silent Night, Holy Night”. One is forced to move along in order to be able to converse in a somewhat normal tone of voice with his companion.

Within the store (“Pardon me, madam”), one sees row upon crowded row of the most wonderful merchandise (“excuse me, sir”)—merchandise which the kings of the earth centuries ago could not purchase with the half of their kingdoms. And the toys! Did you ever see such toys? There are big toys, little toys, mechanical toys, construction toys. Over there is one I like—that road racer set. That is quite some toy, with its lane changing track, its jump track. I suppose that would be classified as one of the toys that Fathers eagerly buy for their boys (?). And take a glance at those dolls! They weep, they wet, they walk. Fact is, they apparently can do anything a baby can do—only better. Or possibly you are looking for something for Dad? There are the ties (they’re always popular this time of year), the shirts, little “gimmicks” for the home, or tools for that basement workshop. Gifts for Moms, for Dads, for nieces, for grandchildren—they are all here in abundance.

But the time for shopping soon, too soon, comes to an end. Now one must go back to the car and ease once more into that “crazy” holiday traffic. Before long, one comes to the edge of town. The traffic thins and our speed proportionately increases. But now the kids let out a shout: “Slow down, Dad; there’s a real pretty blue one!” And a bit farther the story is repeated. One lighted tree after another is spied—each one apparently prettier than the last (judging from those exclamations from the back seat). But even at that, home is best. There in the corner stand the nicest tree in the block. What fun the children had decorating it! Who would want to miss those shouts of laughter as the smaller one toppled over with the entire box of tinsel sprinkled over his head? Or who would not be speechless, watching those children gaze in silence and wonderment as Dad places the lighted angel on the highest point of the tree. Now the tree is lighted; the tinsel is carefully hung; the gleaming balls flicker as a slight breeze moves them back and forth. The presents already are stacked high under its sheltering branches. That big box over there is Bobby’s. Could it possibly be that electric train he’s been admiring the past year long? And the long, narrow box with red ribbon is Sharon’s. I can’t imagine what that would be! On the wall the clock slowly counts the minutes ‘til that glorious moment on Christmas morn when everyone rushes down to open those mysterious boxes.

Around the frame of the kitchen door are tacked the Christmas cards (47 according to my last count). There are cards with snowflakes, card with santas, card with mangers, cards with wise men three (though how the artist knew there were three, I’ll never know) and cards with paintings by Grandma Moses. Tomorrow the mailman will come staggering up the front walk once again with another load of cards (and where will we ever find room to tack those?).

In the kitchen Mother turns off the radio. After all, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” five times in one day is more than enough. Besides, with all that noise, how can one properly prepare that Christmas menu? Let’s see; with sixteen people coming, a twenty-pound turkey will be needed. Then there’s the salad…But now we’re becoming involved in something far too complex for mere men; these are problems only Mothers can solve.

Not far from the kitchen door, in the neighborhood park, stands a lighted, life-sized crèche (you know—one of those manger-scenes which appear so lovely with the newly fallen snow resting lightly on it). The churches of the community were responsible for having it placed there. There was that drive a few years ago to “put Christ back into Christmas”. This is the fruit. The merchants willingly contributed. The neighborhood artisans donated their time and talent. There stands the beautiful result. Mary holds the Babe tenderly in her arms. The two are sheltered by a few roughly hewn logs representing a barn (we don’t know what the manger looked like—but you must admit that this appears authentic). While the shepherds stand nearby watching their sheep and angels, suspended upon wires, float in the sky above, the wise men (three again) are bowing down before Him and presenting their gifts. (Of course, the wise men appeared possibly a year or more after the birth of Christ—but who would want to omit the wise men from the manger scene?) Soft lights flood the tender scene, while in the background, loud speakers softly sound forth songs of the Baby’s birth.

Nor is this the only effort of the community churches. They have already set their own “houses” in order. A small tree decorates the entrance of the church. Nearby is a pile of small presents laid there by the little hands of Sunday-School children (to teach them the idea of giving, you know).

Off to the side, in the study, the pastor already struggles with his Christmas sermon. This one has to be something special. It is not every day that so many people will crowd into the sanctuary. Here is the opportunity to speak to many who possibly will not hear the “Word” again for another year (unless they come for Easter, too). The burden upon his soul is plainly reflected in the lines of concentration and deep thought upon his face. How can he emphasize anew that oft-repeated thought concerning the brotherhood of men? How can it be brought across that we must live with everyone (in the spirit of Christmas), share with everyone, not be so bigoted or one-sided? Then there’s Mr. Brown to remember, too. Likely he’ll be there Christmas day. He still speaks of “niggers” and the report is that he would never sell his house to any Negro family. How can the meaning of Christmas be pointed out to him? And if only he, as pastor, can burden their hearts with the thought of world peace, rule by international law, the need for real co-operation.

And the sermon this year will be climaxed (as in other years) with the children’s Christmas play—that little sad story of the poor boy who starves on Christmas eve because the wealthy people of the neighborhood were too busy tending their turkeys to observe the dire need of the little fellow. And, after the play, everyone will go home to talk contentedly about that wonderful “spirit of Christmas”.

“But,” you ask, “what has all this to do with the text on the top of the opposite page—what has it to do with the name given Him (Jesus), but especially, what does it have to do with that thought expressed in the last part of the text: ‘…He shall save His people from their sins’?” That, my dear young friends, is a very, very good question. I just wanted you to give that some serious thought during this Christmas season.