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A Christmas Lesson, by Thomas M. Iden, December 14, 1901

Dec 19, 2012

Tags: christmas emporia gazette special collections

This is how the upper floor of the Emporia Gazette building at 511 Merchant appeared on weekdays in 1901.  On Saturday nights this room was transformed into The Upper Room Bible Study, hosted by professor Thomas M. Iden of the Kansas State Normal School and attended by young men who were college students or simply lived in town.  The weekly class was established in Emporia on November 19, 1898.

The popularity of the class is apparent in these words, penned by Iden in an annual letter mailed December 31, 1902:  The Upper Room Bible Class has never been so large nor has its influence ever been so far-reaching.  You will recall that a year ago we set ourselves the task of adding one entirely new name to our roll for every day in the year.  This has been done.  Last year the New Year’s letter went to thirteen hundred young men, this year it will be mailed to sixteen hundred and seventy bona fide members of the class.  Our room is too small.  We must soon seek larger quarters.  Within the last school year our enrollment reached five hundred and sixty.  Counting the different individuals enrolled between Jan. 1, 1902 and Jan. 1, 1903 - including a part of two school years - the number is about seven hundred.  


Iden issued a hand-written, hand-decorated, multi-page leaflet for each lesson.  These were regularly mailed to students who were unable to attend that week’s class and to former students.  It was common for students to save their leaflets and have them bound at the end of the year. Below are some of the features of a leaflet dated December 14, 1901, found within the Iden Meditation Upper Room Collection (NA1996.001).

"The Young Men’s Bible Class


Every Saturday Evening

 In the Upper Room

511 Merchant Street


All young men are most cordially invited.


Hour 7:30-8:30"

  "On Saturday evening, Jan. 4, 1902, the hour will be spent in answering questions.  You are asked to prepare these questions and pass them in next Saturday night, Dec. 21, or at least before you go home for the holidays.  Let them be questions concerning your own difficulties as young men, your trials, your temptations, your doubts if need be, concerning life, duty, Christianity.  Ask any question the answer to which might help you in your living, in your understanding of the Scriptures.  Your leader does not promise to answer them all satisfactorily, but he will do the best he can.  He longs to be able to help you in any possible way.  Do not hesitate to ask for just what you would like to know.  If it is not proper to answer the question publicly, or rather if he thinks it advisable not to do so, he will be happy to speak to you personally.  This ought to be one of the very best meetings of the New Year."

Study guide for

“A Christmas Lesson - Story of a Birth”


December 14, 1901.


The earth has grown old with its burden of care,

But at Christmas it always is young.

The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair,

And its soul full of music breaks forth on the air

When the song of the angels is sung.


It is coming, old earth, it is coming tonight!

On the snowflakes which cover the sod

The feet of the Christ-child fall gentle and white,

And the voice of the Christ-child tells out with delight

That mankind are the children of God.


The feet of the humblest may walk in the field

Where the feet of the holiest have trod.

This, this is the marvel to mortals revealed

When the silvery trumpets of Christmas have pealed

That mankind are the children of God.


Phillips Brooks (uncredited)


The Iden Meditation Upper Room Collection consists of 12 boxes, 2 oversize folder files, and 29 books and bound serials that document Thomas M. Iden, the Upper Room Bible Class, the Thomas M. Iden Scholarship, the Upper Room Bible Class reunions, the Iden Upper Room Scholarship, and the establishment of the Iden Meditation Upper Room at Emporia State University in 1964. 

Access to these materials and other resources documenting the members of the Upper Room Bible Class is available at Special Collections and Archives in room 119 of the William Allen White Library.

~ Shari Scribner

Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections and Archives

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