Christmas and Epiphany
Christmas is the celebration of Jesus' birth. The story can be found in the New Testament of the Bible in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
- Jesus was born to Mary, a virgin who was betrothed to Joseph, a carpenter in the town of Nazareth.
- Before Jesus was born, Mary was visited by an angel who told her that she would give birth to a baby boy, whom she should name Jesus.
- According to Matthew, Jesus was born in Bethlehem because Joseph and Mary had been ordered to go there to take part in a census in Joseph's home town.
- When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem the local inn was already full with people returning for the census.
- The innkeeper let them stay in the stable where Mary gave birth to her son and laid him in a manger (a feeding trough for animals).
- Luke tells how shepherds were led to Jesus by an angel.
- In Matthew's account, wise men (or Magi) visited Jesus. They had followed a star that led them to Jesus and they presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Christmas is celebrated in a variety of ways. The story of Jesus' birth, called the nativity, is often retold by children in nativity plays.
Church services often include a carol service. Some Christians start Christmas Day with a midnight service called Midnight Mass.
Christians often celebrate Christmas by giving and receiving presents and cards. This reminds them of the gift of Jesus and the beginning his earthly life.
What Christmas means for Christians today
Christmas is important to many Christians because it reminds them that:
- Jesus, the Son of God, came to Earth for all people (symbolised through the visits of the wise men and the shepherds).
- Mary and Joseph both had a strong faith in God, despite the difficulties they faced.
Epiphany is celebrated 12 days after Christmas, on 6 January, and commemorates the visit of the wise men to the infant Jesus.
Epiphany literally means 'revealed', and this day also marks the day when Jesus was revealed to the world.