It was 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 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.
Newt Gingrich in a holiday article shares “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, 234 years ago.”
I couldn’t say it better myself. On this Christmas night, may we all pause and remember. I would bet, too, that 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 surely 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.