ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY, PRINCESS AND CONFESSOR, died 1231
Born in Pressburg, Hungary, in 1207, Elizabeth was the daughter of King Andrew II and his wife Gertrude. Given as a bride in an arranged political marriage, Elizabeth became the wife of Louis of Thuringia in Germany at the age of 14. She had a spirit of Christian generosity and charity, and the home she established for her husband and three children in Wartburg Castle at Eisenach was known for its hospitality and family love. Elizabeth often supervised the care of the sick and needy and even gave up her bed to a leper at one time. Widowed at the age of 20, she made provisions for her children and entered into an austere life as a nun in the Order of Saint Francis. Her self-denial led to failing health and an early death in 1231 at the age of 24. Remembered for her self-sacrificing ways, Elizabeth is commemorated through the many hospitals named for her around the world.
CLEMENT OF ROME, BISHOP AND TEACHER, died around 100
Clement, referred to in Philippians 4:3, was the third bishop of Rome after Peter. He was banished to the Crimea during the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan and forced to work in the mines. His witness to Christ, bearing the cross in trials, led to the conversion of many. He is known as the first of the Apostolic Fathers and his first letter (1 Clement) is a model of pastoral concern. Several early manuscripts of the New Testament number it among the canonical books. Clement was martyred for Christ, according to some traditions, by being tied to an anchor and thrown in the Black Sea.
MIGUEL AGUSTIN PRO, MARTYR, died 1927
Pro grew up in a time when the Mexican revolutionaries accused the church of siding with the wealthy. He became a Jesuit priest, and worked on behalf of the poor and homeless. Falsely accused of throwing a bomb at a government official, he was executed, but not before crying out “Long live Christ the King!”
JUSTUS FALCKNER, PASTOR, died 1723
JEHU JONES, PASTOR, died 1852
WILLIAM PASSAVANT, PASTOR, died 1894
Not only was Falckner the first Lutheran ordained in North America, but he published a catechism which was the first Lutheran book published on the continent. Jones was the Lutheran church’s first African American pastor and carried out missionary work in Philadelphia which led to the formation there of the first African American Lutheran congregation (St. Paul’s). William Passavant helped to establish hospitals and orphanages in a number of cities and was the first to introduce deaconesses to the work of hospitals in the United States.
ISSAC WATTS, HYMNWRITER, died 1748
The father of English hymnody, Watts (1574 – 1748) wrote classic hymns of devotion such as “O God Our Help in Ages Past” and “Joy to the World” (ELW 362 & 267).
Noah, the son of Lamech (Genesis 5:30), was instructed by God to build an ark, in which his family would find security from the destructive waters of a devastating flood that God warned would come. Noah built the ark, and the rains descended. The entire earth was flooded destroying “every living thing that was on the face of the ground, both man and beast” (Genesis 7:23). After the flood waters subsided, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. When Noah determined it was safe, and God confirmed it, he and his family and all the animals disembarked. Then Noah built an altar and offered a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God for having saved his family from destruction. A rainbow in the sky was declared by God to be a sign of His promise that never again would a similar flood destroy the entire earth (Genesis 8:30). Noah is remembered and honored for his obedience, believing that God would do what He said He would.
Andrew was a fisherman, the brother of Peter, and the first apostle to follow Jesus (John 1:35 – 40). Andrew brought Peter to Christ. According to tradition, Andrew was martyred for sharing the gospel at Patras in Achaia on the X shaped cross. St. Andrew’s Day determines the beginning of the Christian year, since the first Sunday in Advent is always the Sunday nearest this day.
FRANCIS XAVIER, MISSIONARY, died 1552
Xavier (1506 – 1552) is considered the apostle to the Indies and Japan. He studied with Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order, at the University of Paris. King John III of Portugal invited Xavier to travel to the East in 1537. Xavier shared the gospel in India, Japan, and died in China in 1552. Large numbers of converts to Christ established churches in the East, the first since the Apostle Thomas, and Xavier’s work in many ways began the dialogue between faith in Christ and Eastern religions.
JOHN OF DAMASCUS, THEOLOGIAN AND HYMNWRITER, died around 749
A monk in an abbey near Jerusalem, John wrote many hymns as well as theological works. One of his works, The Fount of Wisdom, remains influential.
NICHOLAS OF MYRA, BISHOP, died around 342
Nicholas (around 342 AD) served as Bishop of Myra on the southwest coast of modern day Turkey. He saved three daughters of a poor man from a life of prostitution by secretly putting three bags of gold into his home for their dowries. At the Council of Nicea, he is reported to have given the heretical bishop of Arius a resounding box on the ears! Nicholas’ love for the poor and for children led to him becoming one of the most popular saints on the Christian calendar. The giving spirit of Nicholas continues to this day with the work of Santa Claus and his helpers known by a child or two…
AMBROSE OF MILAN, BISHOP AND TEACHER, died around 397
Ambrose (339 – 397) was baptized, ordained and made bishop all on the same day, December 7, 374 AD. He was a famous preacher, defender of the faith, and writer of hymns in Latin. He is partly responsible for sharing Christ with Augustine. Along with Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great, Ambrose is considered one of the four great doctors (teachers) of the Western Church.
LUCY, MARTYR, died 304
Lucy was a young Christian of Sicily who was martyred during the persecution under Emperor Diocletian. Her celebration became particularly important in Sweden and Norway, perhaps because the feast of Lucia (whose name means “light”) originally fell on the shortest day of the year.
JOHN OF THE CROSS, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH, 1591
John (1542 – 1591 AD) was a reformer among Spanish monks attempting to implement the reforms of Teresa of Avila that focused on Jesus the Christ. During times of intense persecution and isolation, John received visions that helped him explore the call of self-denial, nothingness, and God’s love. John wrote, “A person makes progress only by imitating Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” His spiritual writings are found in The Ascent of Mount Carmel, The Dark Night of the Soul and The Spiritual Canticle.
DANIEL THE PROPHET
Daniel was one of the Jewish exiles in Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem. According to tradition, he was of the tribe of Judah. His name means “God is my judge” and along with the Three: Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego were faithful to the LORD in captivity. Daniel received the gift of interpreting dreams from the LORD which led to many rewards from first Babylonian and then Persian emperors. He was persecuted for the faith by the Persian King Darius being thrown to the lions yet the LORD saved him. When the Persians allowed Israel to return home, it is possible Daniel returned (read Nehemiah 10:6) as well but his final days are unknown. Daniel received visions about the Last Day that are recorded in Daniel 7 – 10.
ADAM AND EVE
Adam was the first man, made in the image of God and given dominion over all the earth (Genesis 1:26). Eve was the first woman, formed from one of Adam’s ribs to be his companion and helper (Genesis 2:18 – 24). God placed them in the Garden of Eden to take care of creation as His representatives. But they disobeyed God’s Word and plunged the world into sin (Genesis 3:1 – 7). However, despite the effects of sin, death, and devil, the LORD promised that the woman’s Seed would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:8 – 24). Eve is the mother of the human race, while Adam is the representative of all humanity and the fall as Paul writes: “For in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
KATHARINA VON BORA LUTHER, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH, died 1552
Katharina von Bora (1499 – 1552) was placed in a convent while still a child and became a nun in 1515. In April 1523, she and eight other nuns became supporters of Luther’s reforms and were rescued from the convent (smuggled out in empty herring barrels) and brought to Wittenberg. There Martin Luther helped return some of the women to their former homes and placed the rest in good families. Katharina and Martin were married on June 13, 1525. Their marriage was a happy one and was blessed with ten children, six by childbirth and four by adoption. Stories about their household and about Luther’s students are recorded in the Table Talks. After Luther’s death in 1546, Katharina remained in Wittenberg but lived much of the time in poverty. She died as the result of injuries received traveling with her children to Torgau in order to escape the plague.
STEPHEN, DEACON AND MARTYR
Stephen was one of the Church’s first seven deacons who helped distribute food and other necessities to the poor in the growing Christian community in Jerusalem. The Sanhedrin falsely charged him with blasphemy. Stephen’s confession of faith led to his martyrdom being stoned to death. Stephen is honored as the Church’s first martyr and for his words of commendation and forgiveness as he lay dying: “Lord Jesus receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 6 – 7)
JOHN, APOSTLE AND EVANGELIST
John was a son of Zebedee and brother of James, also called to be an apostle. John was among the first disciples to be called by Jesus (Matthew 4:18 – 22) and according to tradition became known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” as he refers to himself in the Gospel that bears his name (e.g. John 21:20). Of the Twelve, John alone did not forsake Jesus in the hours of His suffering and death. With the faithful women, he stood at the cross, where our Lord made him the guardian of His mother, Mary. After Pentecost, John spent his ministry in Jerusalem and at Ephesus, where he became a bishop. He wrote the fourth Gospel, the three Epistles that bear his name, and the Book of Revelation. John was banished to the island of Patmos by the Roman emperor Domitian. John lived to a very old age, a martyr in will but not in blood as the other Twelve, and died at Ephesus around 100 AD.
THE HOLY INNOCENTS, MARTYRS
The children, possibly some 14,000, who were murdered by King Herod in his attempt to kill Jesus, were martyrs in place of the Christ Child. For their innocent deaths, the faithful commend them to the saving blood of Jesus shed for all innocents from the blood of righteous Abel to the Last Day (Matthew 2:13 – 18.
DAVID, PROPHET AND KING
David, the greatest of Israel’s kings, ruled from about 1010 to 970 BC. The events of his life are found in 1 Samuel 18 – 1 Kings 2 and 1 Chronicles 10 – 29. The Psalms are also traditionally attributed to him as the song master of Israel. His public and private character displayed a mixture of good (for example his defeat of Goliath, 1 Samuel 17) and evil (for example his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband Uriah, 2 Samuel 11). David united the Twelve Tribes of Israel and established Jerusalem as the political and spiritual capital. David’s greatness lay in his fierce loyalty to the LORD coupled with his willingness to confess his sins and seek forgiveness (for example Psalm 51). Jesus the Christ, our Lord and Savior is descended from the line of David and fulfills the promise that the Son of David will rule forever.