One of my favorite Christmas stories took place 235 years ago on a frigid storm struck Christmas night – December 25, 1776. On this storm struck night along the western banks of the Delaware River,sat General George Washington and the army of men and women that rallied to him. Washington’s army consisted of thousands of men from throughout the colonies, and the women were the wives of many of these men. These women followed the army from battle to battle providing some of the behind the scenes combat support such as cleaning, cooking, laundry, and chow. On this bitter cold Christmas night as a howling nor’easter storm struck the Delaware Valley, Washington led the men across the icy river in a desperate attack against the British and Hessian troops posted along the river’s opposite side.
In the weeks and months leading up to this night, Washington’s men had become dreadfully dispirited. They had experienced defeat after defeat as they repeatedly retreated from the advancing British forces. Many of Washington’s men had given up. With their contracts due to expire in this very month of December, 2000 troops refused to sign on again. Hundreds had already deserted, and most of those that remained were sick, hungry, and miserable. They had almost no clothes to protect them against the bitter harshness of that winter. In fact, a visitor to their camp described them as looking wretched.
This army and their new nation were in crisis. It was a perilous moment when things had gone deeply wrong for the American War of Independence. Thomas Paine, a great writer of that era, had actually marched with them in their retreats. Seeing the destitute nature of Washington’s army and knowing the desperate nature of their situation, Thomas Paine hastily wrote a pamphlet aptly titledThe Crisis. This pamphlet was immediately published and distributed throughout the colonies in an effort to get the colonies united behind Washington’s army. To rally the colonies, Thomas Paine described the crisis in this way. He said, “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
Tried times tend to either unify us or divide us. In the crisis of 1776, Washington’s army united together on this cold Christmas night and won the battle of Trenton thus turning the tide of the war and bringing hope to their young nation.
For many of us, this Christmas may be a difficult and tender time.We are separated from loved ones by long miles. Some loved ones are missing from Christmas gatherings for the first time. Some may be separated by strained relations. “But the promise of Christmas is that sorrow can be turned to joy, and sadness can give way to gladness.
Always there is hope – hope that we will reunite with loved ones, so cherished and missed; hope for an opportunity to start rebuilding a relationship; hope that this Christmas will mark the dawning of new life and new prospects.
Merry Christmas.. all is well over here. This was just time to reflect...