December 6, 345 (traditional date): Nicholas, bishop of Myra (right), one of the most popular saints in the Greek and Latin churches, dies.
Eventually, stories of his generosity and cheer became part of the Christmas tradition, and St. Nicholas became the basis for Santa Claus.
December 18, 1707: Charles Wesley, who founded the Methodist movement with his brother John, is born in England. A celebrated and prolific hymnwriter, his Hark the Herald Angels Sing is widely sung this time of year.
December 18, 1865: Slavery is abolished in the United States as the 13th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified. Many of the abolitionists who pushed for its passage were Christians seeking to make America more like the Kingdom of God.
December 24, 1223: Francis of Assisi stages history’s first living nativity scene, complete with live animals, in a cave near Greccio, Italy.
December 24, 1818: Franz Gruber composes the music for Silent Night in the St. Nicholas Church of Oberndorf, Austria.
December 27, 1784: Francis Asbury is ordained superintendent of the Methodist Church in America at the famous “Christmas Conference” (left) held in Baltimore, Maryland. He soon took the title “bishop.”
December 29, 1851: The first Young Men’s Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.) in the U.S. is organized in Boston.
December 30, 1823: Charles G. Finney, the most effective evangelist in American history, is licensed to preach.
December 30, 1852: Future U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes marries “Lemonade Lucy,” so called because, as first lady, she forbade alcohol in the Executive Mansion.
The Hayeses (right, photographed on their wedding day) were both devout Methodists who began each day with prayer and organized Sunday evening worship services at the White House.
Adapted with permission from ChristianHistory.net.