The Nativity of Our Lord — Christmas Eve
1144 Muslims captured Edessa, Turkey, from Christian crusaders.
1223 Francis of Assisi (1182–1226) staged history’s first living nativity scene, complete with live animals, in a cave near Greccio, Italy.
1491 Ignatius of Loyola, ascetic founder of the Jesuits, was born in Guipuzcoa, Spain (d. 13 July 1556).
1534 Martin Luther wrote “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come” for his children’s Christmas gift.
1541 Andreas Karlstadt (b. 1486), German Protestant reformer, died.
1625 Johann Rudolph Ahle, composer, was born in Muehlhausen, Thuringia (d. 8 July 1673).
1784 A Christmas conference was held at Baltimore for the purpose of forming the Methodist Episcopal Church.
1784 American statesman James Madison published his famous Remonstrance against Religious Assessments in Virginia.
1813 Henry W. Greatorex, American sacred music organist, was born in Derbyshire, England (d. 10 September 1858).
1816 “Angels from the Realms of Glory” was published for the first time. This hymn of James Montgomery (1771–1854) was printed in the Iris, a Sheffield, England, newspaper edited by Montgomery himself.
1818 Joseph Mohr (1792–1848), the young assistant priest at St. Nikolaus Church in Oberndorf, Austria, brought the six-stanza text of “Silent Night, Holy Night” to Franz Gruber (1787–1863), parish organist and teacher in the village school, with the request that he set it to music. Gruber composed a guitar tune, and the beloved carol was sung for the first time at the Christmas Eve service.
1840 The first Christmas tree was placed in an American church by Johannes Muehlhaeuser (1804–1868), a Lutheran pastor in Rochester, New York.
1851 Heinrich Schwan (1819–1905), later to become third president of the Missouri Synod, set up a Christmas tree in his church in Cleveland, Ohio, and helped popularize this practice in America.
1869 Henry Bernard Hemmeter, professor and president at Concordia College (Conover, North Carolina), vice-president of the Eastern District of the Missouri Synod and chairman of the Mission Board of the English District, was born in Baltimore, Maryland (d. 22 July 1948, Baltimore).
1870 Albert Barnes (b. 1 December 1798), American Presbyterian clergyman and Bible expositor, died.
1871 The Northside Tabernacle in Chicago was dedicated by Dwight L. Moody (1837–1899). This tabernacle was the original structure of what is today the Moody Memorial Church.
1878 Felix Marie Abel, Dominican priest, biblical scholar and geographer of Palestine, was born in Saint-Uze (Droame), France (d. 1953). After studies in Jerusalem he was ordained a Dominican priest in 1902 and remained there to become a foremost expert on Palestinian geography and history, extending his talents to a tourist guide for 1932. He taught at the Ecole Biblique of Jerusalem for more than fifty years, being named by Pius XII Consultor to the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 1940.
1881 Adolph Theodore Esaias Haentzschel, professor at Concordia College (Conover, North Carolina), Saint Paul’s College (Concordia, Missouri), the University of Wisconsin (Madison) and Valparaiso (Indiana) University, was born in Addison, Illinois (d. 5 June 1971).
1895 Edmund Bohm, director of the school that became Concordia College (Bronxville, New York), died (b. 30 August 1840, Allstedt, Germany).
1902 Howard Earl Miller was born in Hagerstown, Maryland and graduated from Concordia Seminary (Saint Louis) in 1928 (d. 11 June 1978, Richmond, Indiana). He served most of his career in India as a missionary in the Penamber Field and Kolar Gold and as professor and president of Concordia Seminary, Nagercoil.
1918 “A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” was first presented at Kings College chapel, Cambridge, England. The following year the Order of Service was revised with a reordering of the lessons. The hymn, “Once in Royal David’s City”, by Cecil F. Alexander, was used as the opening hymn at that service.
1919 Heinrich H. Succop, vice-president of Missouri Synod and president of Illinois District (LCMS), died (b. 13 July 1845, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania).
1922 Religious radio broadcasting began in the British Isles when the Rev. J. A. Mayo gave a ten-minute talk over “the wireless” just forty days after its first commercial installation in England.
1933 The famous ancient Greek Bible manuscript Codex Sinaiticus arrived in London.
1949 William C. Poole (b. 14 April 1875), American Methodist clergyman and Gospel song writer, died.
1951 Amahl and the Night Visitors, a Christmas musical, had its TV debut.
1968 The Apollo 8 astronauts became the first men to orbit the moon. In the midst of their ten orbits, they read the first ten verses of Genesis 1, the creation story, to listeners on earth.
2004 Archbishop Theodosios (Hanna) of Sebastia (b. 1965) was ordained as the Archbishop of Sebastia from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the second Palestinian to hold the position of Archbishop in the history of the diocese.