Wednesday, December 31, 2014

This Day in Christian History: December 31

This Day in Christian History: December 31

December 31, 1837: Birth of John R. Sweney

Born in Chester, PA, John R. Sweney discovered his talents at an early age. He became a music teacher and Sunday school music leader while yet a boy. By age 19, he was studying music under German Professor Bauer. He played the piano, violin, and led choir. He specialized in children's music.

When the Civil War began, John joined the 3rd Delaware  Regiment, and was in charge of the band.

After the war, John continued his musical teaching and accomplishments by accepting a position at the Pennsylvania Military Academy where he served for 25 years. Before his death in 1899, John composed over 1,000 gospel tunes, including Beulah Land, More About Jesus I Would Know, and Tell Me the Stories of Jesus.

Monday, December 29, 2014

This Day in Christian History: December 29

This Day in Christian History: December 29

December 29, 1849: The Christmas Hymn It Came Upon a Midnight Clear first published.

Born on April 6, 1810 in Massachusetts, Edmund Sears was a minister and author who is best known as the author of the Christmas hymn, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. He began preaching as a missionary at age 27 in Ohio, and later served several towns in the Boston area. He wrote a good number of theological works in addition to his hymns.

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear is said to have been written upon the request of Edmund's friend, William Parsons Lunt. Originally, the poem was written as a reflection on his time as a minister, but it has since become a beloved Christmas carol. It was first published in the Christian Register on December 29, 1849.

While we here in America know the song as set to the tune of  Carol by Richard Willis, it is sung to a different tune in the U.K. Arthur Sullivan composed a tune known as Noel and adapted the lyrics to this melody around 1874.  Here is what the tune sounds like in England.

Friday, December 26, 2014

This Day in Christian History: December 26

This Day in Christian History: December 26

December 26, 1620: The Mayflower Lands at Plymouth

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor
The vessel Mayflower full of ambitious pilgrims looking for religious liberty set sail from Plymouth, England on September 16th, 1620. The 102 passengers spend a miserable 65 days at sea before finally arriving in the New World.

As legend has it, they stepped ashore on Plymouth Rock, but their arrival was poorly planned. December in this new world was not ideal for a people with no food stores, no shelters, and no knowledge of the land and climate. The winter of 1620 was very difficult, and by the time spring came, half of them had perished.

There is more to this story, of course, but that will be saved for another day.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

This Day in Christian History: December 24

This Day in Christian History: December 24

December 24, 1818: The beloved hymn "Stille Nacht," or Silent Night was sung for the first time.

Franz Gruber
On December 5, we mentioned Joseph Mohr, who was the composer of the lyrics to "Stille Nacht".
Today, we're exploring how this hymn came to be.

 Joseph Mohr and his friend Franz Xaver Gruber were in need of a new Christmas Carol for their Christmas Eve midnight mass. On Christmas Eve, with the midnight mass only hours away, Joseph brought a poem that he'd written some time earlier to show Franz, who also was the organist and choir master at the church, in hopes that he might be able to set the poem to music. Franz did compose the melody, in only a few hours, and the song was performed for the very first time that night.

The song has gone on to become on of the most beloved Christmas Carols of all time and has been translated into about 140 languages. The lyrics to this song still touch our hearts today.

Silent night, Holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant, tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

Silent night, Holy night
Shepherds quake, at the sight
Glories stream from heaven above
Heavenly, hosts sing Hallelujah.
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born.

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas filled with His peace, love and joy! 


Saturday, December 20, 2014

This Day in Christian History: December 20

This Day in Christian History: December 20

December 20, 1552: Death of Martin Luther's wife, Katharina von Bora

German reformer Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora, a former nun on June 13 1525. Katharina was sent to the cloister in 1504 by her father, and became a nun sometime around 1509.

Around 1523, Katharina and some of the other nuns in her monastery gained an interest in the reformation movement and wrote a letter to Martin Luther begging for his assistance to escape the monastery. She and the other nuns escaped by hiding in a covered wagon among fish barrels.

After their escape, Luther successfully arranged homes or marriages for all of the nuns, except Katharina. Though she had many suitors, Katharina told Luther's friend Nikolaus von Amsdorf that the only suitors she would accept was Martin Luther, or Nikolaus himself.

Martin must have won that one, because Katharina married him in 1525, two years after her escape from the monastery.

Friday, December 19, 2014

This Day in Christian History: December 19

This Day in Christian History: December 19

December 19, 1843: Charles Dickens first published A Christmas Carol

One of the timeless classics of Christmas, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was first published on December 19, 1843. It was an instant success, and Dickens is often credited with changing Christmas forever with this novella. One thing is for certain, his tale left a lasting impression on our culture, from the expression of "Bah-Humbug!" to images of Tiny Tim and his words "God bless us, everyone!"

In Dicken's story, an old cranky businessman by the name of Ebeneezer Scrooge dreams that he is visited by three ghosts of Christmas. Through his dream, he learns that one can choose joy, peace and kindness, and it can be found even through darkness and despair.

Read more about A Christmas Carol on Wikipedia

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Today in Christian History: December 16

Today in Christian History: December 16

December 16, 1867: Birth of Amy Carmichael

Born on December 16, 1867 in Ireland, Amy Carmichael became on of the greatest missionaries of her time. Among her many accomplishments, Amy is best known for her work of freeing children from pagan temples in India.

Amy died in India in 1951. Her wish was that no headstone be placed upon her grave, so instead, the children of India erected a birdbath engraved with a single word, "Amma" which is their word for "mother."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

This Day in Christian History: December 10

This Day in Christian History: December 10

December 10, 1520: Martin Luther Burns the Papal Bull of Excommunication

For Martin Luther's defiance of the Catholic church, and his heresies such as "the just shall live by faith", Pope Leo X issued to him a Papal Bull pronouncing him a heretic and ordering him to recant his teachings, or be severed from the Roman church.

Luther reacted by publically burning the Bull, as well as many other books by his enemies, outside the gates of Wittenburg Germany where the Luther Oak stands today.

As the flames licked towards the sky, he is said to have yelled above the crackling flames, "Because you, godless book, have grieved or shamed the holiness of the Father, be saddened and consumed by the eternal flames of Hell".

This act was the final straw, and Rome excommunicated Martin Luther less than a month later.

Monday, December 8, 2014

This Day in Christian History: December 8

This Day in Christian History: December 8

December 8, 1907: Christmas Seals sold for the first time

Emily Bissel 1907
Why is this Christian history? Because the first Christmas seals ever sold were to raise funds to fight tuberculosis. At the time, Tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in America.

Born in Deleware during the Civil War, Emily Bissel was an interesting personality. She testified against the women's suffrage movement stating "The vote is part of man's work. Ballot-box, cartridge box, jury box, sentry box all go together in his part of life. Women cannot step in and take the responsibilities and duties of voting with assuming his place very largely."

Several years later, Emily felt drawn to help in the fight against tuberculosis. She came up with the idea for Christmas Seals and sold them at post offices for a penny each. It took some persistence, but eventually the charity took off. Still today, the Christmas Seals raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for disease-fighting organizations. Today, most of the revenues go to the American Lung Association.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

This Day in Christian History: December 6

This Day in Christian History: December 6

December 6, 1769: William Cowper composes the hymn Oh, For a Closer Walk with God.

William Cowper was a poet and hymnist of the 18th century. On December 6th, during the illness of one of William's closest friends, he picked up his pen and wrote the lines to the hymn, Oh For a Closer Walk with God. William told his aunt:
I be­gan to com­pose them yes­ter­day morn­ing be­fore day­break, but I fell asleep at the end of the first two lines. When I awaked again, the third and fourth vers­es were whis­pered to my heart in a way I have of­ten ex­per­i­enced.

These are the words he wrote:
O for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heavenly frame,
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb!

Where is the blessedness I knew,
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul refreshing view
Of Jesus and His Word?

What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void
The world can never fill.

Return, O holy Dove, return,
Sweet messenger of rest!
I hate the sins that made Thee mourn
And drove Thee from my breast.

The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.

So shall my walk be close with God,
Calm and serene my frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb.

Friday, December 5, 2014

This Day in Christian History: December 5

This Day in Christian History: December 5

December 5, 1848: Death of Joseph Mohr

Josephus Franciscus Mohr was born on December 11, 1792. His mother, Anna Schoiberin, was an embroderer who became mixed up with a deserter of the mercenary army. He left her before Joseph was born.
Joseph's rough start and upbringing did not cripple him. He went on to become an accomplished violinist, singer, and vicar in the Catholic church.
 However, Joseph is best known as the composer of the beloved Christmas carol, Silent Night. On Christmas Eve of 1818, Joseph was in need of a carol for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass service. He brought along a poem that he had written several years before and got together with the church's choir master and organist by the name of Franz Xaver Gruber. Gruber composed the tune in only a few hours and "Stille Nacht" was born.

 Read more about Silent Night and Joseph Mohr here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Moravian Christmas Traditions with Guest Blogger Tamera Lynn Kraft

Moravian Christmas Traditions

By Tamera Lynn Kraft

In my novella, A Christmas Promise, I write about Moravian missionaries in Schoenbrunn Village, circa 1773. The Moravians brought many Christmas traditions to America that we use to celebrate Christ’s birth today. Here are a few of them.
The Christmas Tree: Moravians brought the idea of decorating Christmas trees in their homes in the early 1700s, long before it became a popular tradition in the United States.
Christmas Eve Candlelight Services: Most churches have Christmas Eve services where they sing Christmas carols and light candles to show Jesus came to be the light of the world. The Moravian Church has been doing that for centuries. They call their services lovefeasts because they also have a part of the service where they serve sweetbuns and coffee – juice for the kids – and share Christ’s love with each other. For candles, Moravians use bleached beeswax with a red ribbon tied around them. The white symbolizes the purity of Christ and red symbolizes that His blood was shed for us.
The Moravian Star
The Moravian Star: In the 1840s at a Moravian school, students made 24 point stars out of triangles for their geometry lessons. Soon those Moravian stars started making their way on the tops of Christmas trees. The star as a Christmas tree topper is still popular today.
The Putz: The putz is a Christmas nativity scene surrounded by villages or other Biblical scenes. Moravian children in the 1700s would make a putz to put under their Christmas tree. Today, nativity scenes and Christmas villages are popular decorations.
About Tamera's Book, A Christmas Promise
A Moravian Holiday Story, Circa 1773
During colonial times, John and Anna settle in an Ohio village to become Moravian missionaries to the Lenape. When John is called away to help at another settlement two days before Christmas, he promises he’ll be back by Christmas Day.
When he doesn’t show up, Anna works hard to not fear the worst while she provides her children with a traditional Moravian Christmas.
Through it all, she discovers a Christmas promise that will give her the peace she craves.
“Revel in the spirit of a Colonial Christmas with this achingly tender love story that will warm both your heart and your faith. With rich historical detail and characters who live and breathe on the page, Tamera Lynn Kraft has penned a haunting tale of Moravian missionaries who selflessly bring the promise of Christ to the Lenape Indians. A beautiful way to set your season aglow, A Christmas Promise is truly a promise kept for a heartwarming holiday tale.” – Julie Lessman
Available at these online stores:

Pelican Book Group

About Tamera:
Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures and writes Christian historical fiction set in America because there are so many adventures in American history. She is married to the love of her life, has two grown children, and lives in Akron, Ohio. Soldier’s Heart and A Christmas Promise are two of her historical novellas that have been published.
Tamera is the leader of a ministry called Revival Fire For Kids where she mentors other children’s leaders, teaches workshops, and is a children’s ministry consultant and children’s evangelist. She has curriculum published and is a recipient of the 2007 National Children’s Leaders Association Shepherd’s Cup for lifetime achievement in children’s ministry.
You can contact Tamera online at these sites.
Word Sharpeners Blog:
Revival Fire For Kids Blog: