Tuesday, December 4, 2012
A Magic and Historic Christmas
As we celebrate the Christmas season with our families again this year, let's pause to remember a magic and miraculous Christmas some 226 years ago.
Most of us remember, from our history books, Washington's crossing of the icy Delaware on Christmas night of 1776. But I wonder how many of you know how perilously close America came to losing our revolution in those last days of December of that memorable year. Or that two miraculous events occurred that allowed our fight for freedom to go on.
One of the miracles occurred on that Christmas night while the second one evolved only weeks earlier. In order to fully comprehend those miracles one must first truly understand the miracle of our founding itself.
I have always believed that the founding of America was an event ordained and blessed by a merciful creator. How else can one can explain the confluence of people and events that allowed our nation to be born. Keep in mind that human civilization had existed for 5,000 years before the year of our nation's birth. Until the birth of this nation no man anywhere could have dreamed of living under a government that championed the natural god-given rights of every human. Our first Articles of Confederation, and later our Constitution, was written by men who had studied Locke and Rousseau, social theorists who advocated for personal liberty and the abdication of tyrants. How could our creator have been more pleased with those ideals. So, did our creator intervene and aid Americans in this struggle for the freedom of man?
Let's look at what happened to George Washington and his rag tag army in the final weeks of that fateful year.
We probably all remember that American spirits soared earlier in the year when we drove the British out of Boston Harbor. Cornwallis took his troops and his massive navy down to New York. Buoyed by an initial victory, Washington led his troops south, intent on again meeting Britain's mighty forces in the fields of Brooklyn and Long Island.
By August Washington had his forces in place on Long Island and on Manhattan Island. And it was on those two fields of conflict that America suffered resounding defeat. Washington lost more than half of his army at New York, and as he contemplated a retreat into New Jersey, even his retreat seemed highly doubtful. Nearly completely surrounded, Washington's only hope for escape would be by ships, from Manhattan to the Jersey shore. When all seemed hopeless, a miraculous fog settled over the area which allowed the remains of Washington's force to escape to New Jersey. Many of those in the fight that day deemed that unusual fog a true miracle.
When Washington's remaining forces could halt their retreat, to lick their wounds and do a count of what was left of his army, Washington himself was morose. He had fewer than 5,000 men left and many of them were due to leave, their enlistments expiring at the end of December. A shortage of weaponry and ammunition and food made the situation even more dire. General Washington wrote John Hancock in the Philadelphia capitol and reported that his army was quickly moving toward total collapse.
But Washington was not a man to go down without a fight. Cornwallis and his deadly Hessian warriors had settled into Trenton for Christmas. It was there that Washington decided he would mount a night time attack. So on Christmas night Washington led his troops across the ice laden Delaware and attacked the Cornwallis forces there. This daring raid was a great success. Washington's men over-ran the Hessian camp, capturing weaponry and ammunition and food stores, and over 900 of the enemy. A few days later Washington would win a similar victory over Cornwallis at Princeton.
Those two Christmas time victories kept the fight going...kept the hearts and spirits of a rag tag army going, preserved the dream of liberty for a rag tag nation.
God performs any number of miracles during the season of miracles. Let's all be grateful that he bestowed his blessings that month on the father of our country.
Just another reason to celebrate the miracle of Christmas!