This week, we celebrated the best story ever told. Christ coming to earth, to give Himself as a gift to us. But for those of us Americans, there’s a wonderful national Christmas story from our history that I love to share as well. And it all happened Christmas Night. The year? 1776!
It was winter and visions of sugar plums most likely danced in their weary heads as they longed for the warmth of hearth and home far away. Many were in shredded clothes, and most without shoes in the midst of a winter gale of rain, sleet, ice and snow. The secret orders called for the men to muster near the river at midnight. The crossing, that would take all night, awaited them. They did not sleep. Fishermen, now soldiers, rowed back and forth all night long, in silence, ferrying soldiers to the other side. Awaiting them would be a nine mile march over frozen roads. But in the end. They were victorious. A surprise attack by this surly bunch on the thoroughbred Hessian army (who slept soundly due to having celebrated Christmas late into the night) led to a spectacular victory at Trenton, New Jersey, the following morning. Those were indeed times, as Thomas Paine would write, that ‘try men’s souls’.”
It is very difficult to imagine any man, let alone those soldiers fully committing body and mind in those excruciatingly cold and exhausting conditions. What would possess those men to press on rather than run or retreat? Perhaps something deep in their souls. Maybe an amazing trust in, and loyalty to, their leader or, their acute awareness of the immense task they had undertaken for a new country. Committed to the end. With God’s blessing. They turned pain into purpose and they conquered!
I would bet that those men had our Lord on their minds that night. They knew their families were gathered around trees at home and in the morning would head off to church in celebration. But no such enjoyment for them. Their hearts and bodies found strength only in the Christmas prayers they breathed as they rowed or endured that next painful step. The Spirit of Christ and Christmas was with surely them then, and that same Spirit is, and can be, with us this season.
Whatever river you may need to cross in the days ahead, know that He is with you today and He will be with you tomorrow. You and I can and will endure. Thanks to His blessing, His Providence and the strength He sends our way. May we cross over and into victory.
Merry Christmas.