Christmas and Epiphany

"Churchly celebrations should provide a way back, a way into the richness of Christmas past and present," Donald Heinz observes. Yet, he cautions, for the Church to "get Christmas right, or better, may require retrieval of lost knowledge and unlearning modern assumptions." Our contributors probe the original trajectories of Christmastide (the twelve-day season of Christmas) and Epiphany so we can celebrate them faithfully and winsomely today.

Joseph Kelly traces how the festival of Christmas emerged in the early church-settling on the date of December 25, filling out biblical figures with details from prophecy and early Christian sources, and charting the celebration's relation to Epiphany.

To recover the theological riches of Christmas, Heidi Hornik and Mikeal Parsons review the iconography of paintings of the Nativity, and David Music recounts the history of carols. Emilie Griffin reminds us we need the full Christmastide season to absorb the good news of Christ's birth.

Amber and John Inscore Essick describe distinctive Epiphany traditions that help us celebrate the manifestation of Christ to the Magi. Steve Harmon, Michael Clingenpeel, and Bill Shiell reflect on the meaning of this and other biblical stories of the season.

The study guides and lesson plans integrate Bible study, prayer, and worship to explore how the seasons of Christmas and Epiphany guide our formation as disciples. The guides can be used in a series or individually. You may download and reproduce them for personal or group use.

Download the entire Christmas and Epiphany issue and the set of six Study Guides. Or, download individual pieces by clicking the titles below.



  • "The Magi's Adoration," by Heidi J. Hornik, on Gentile da Fabriano's, Adoration of the Magi
  • "The Shepherds' Adoration," by Heidi J. Hornik and Mikeal C. Parsons, on Domenico Ghirlandaio's Adoration of the Shepherds and Hugo van der Goes' Adoration of the Shepherds

Hymn and Worship Service

Inspirational Pieces


  • "The History of Christmas," by G. Sujin Pak
    • David Forbes, Christmas: A Candid History
    • Donald Heinz, Christmas: Festival of Incarnation
    • Joseph F. Kelly, The Origins of Christmas
    • Joseph F. Kelly, The Feast of Christmas
  • "Choral Music for Christmas," by Mark J. Suderman
    • The Cambridge Singers, Christmas Night: Carols of the Nativity
    • Chanticleer, Our Heart's Joy: A Chanticleer Christmas
    • Choir of St. John's College, Advent Carols from St. John's
    • King's College Choir, Classic Christmas Carols: 50 Favourite Carols
    • Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists J. S. Bach: Christmas Oratorio
    • The Robert Shaw Chorale, Songs of Angels: Christmas Hymns & Carols
    • St. Olaf College Choirs and Orchestra, Where Peace and Love and Hope Abide
    • The Sixteen, Hodie: An English Christmas Collection
    • The Tallis Scholars, Christmas with the Tallis Scholars
    • Theatre of Voices, Carols from the Old & New Worlds

Study Guides and Lesson Plans (Download the set of six Study Guides)

Further Reading