I have a couple of smaller Christmas trees in my home as well the main large tree that I decorate each year. One particular small tree is placed in my own room. It is my Patriotic tree. At night, I leave it’s lights on and view the ornaments. And many times spend the last moments of the day in prayer for my country.
You see, that tree contains ornaments that were gifts or that I purchased at historic landmarks and at homes of past presidents or Presidential libraries. And of course, there is the White House ornament, the one from the Supreme Court gift store, and one from the National Cathedral. Some are of historic moments in our history. Such is the case of the one that speaks most to my heart.
It depicts the scene of George Washington in his boat crossing the Delaware. Now you may not remember, but that historic event happened on Christmas night. Thus the personal Yulteide significance.
I marvel each time I think about that amazing event. Men in the freezing winter. In shredded clothes, and most without shoes in the midst of a winter gale of rain, sleet, ice and snow. Historian Newt Gingrich recounts it this way. “This band of patriots braved a midnight river crossing [that took all night. They did NOT sleep. Followed by] a nine mile march over frozen roads to win 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 committing body and mind to the utmost 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.
Mr. Gingrich in a recent article continued, “In a season that has become too commercialized and — worse yet — had much of its religious meaning driven from the public square, Washington’s Christmas crossing is a story that should be remembered and celebrated, this Christmas and every Christmas. Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ, to be with family and friends, and, I would add, to give thanks to God for those who endured so much on that Christmas night, 232 years ago.”
I couldn’t say it better myself. On this Christmas Eve, may we all pause and remember. But I would bet those men had our Lord on their minds that night. And their hearts and bodies found strength in the prayers they breathed as they rowed or wondered how they could endure that next painful step. They knew their families were gathered around trees at home and in the morning would head off to church in celebration. The Spirit of Christ and Christmas was with them then, and that same Spirit is 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.