For Christian who are Catholic or Protestant, Christmas Day itself is the focus for prayer and celebration at Christmas time.
Christians of the Orthodox Church (such as in Russia and Greece) have a quiet celebration on Christmas Day, but have the Epiphany (6 January) as their main day of prayer and celebration at Christmas time.
Why is this?
Orthodox Christians recall that the birth of Jesus was greeted by ordinary shepherds who recognised that he was the Son of God. The birth was quiet and almost secret. It wasn’t yet time to make public the news of the birth of the Son of God. And so Orthodox Christians tend to see Christmas Day mainly for personal commitment, in the manner of the shepherds.
They celebrate more publicly on the Epiphany – the feast that recalls the wise men travelling to worship Jesus. The birth of the Son of God is no longer a secret, and the wise men represent the people of all nations, searching for God.
Whilst the shepherds were invited to a personal commitment, the wise men from afar represent a broadcasting of the Good News – the Son of God has been born a human being. The ‘secret’ is out! Epiphany marks the ‘going public’ of the Good News that Jesus is present.
The Epiphany represents a challenge and an invitation to all people to recognise who Jesus is.
what gift shall we bring to you?
The angels bring their son,
the heavens bring their star,
the shepherds bring their wonder,
the animals give their manger,
the wise men bring their gifts,
and we human beings
bring the Virgin-Mother.
We bring our whole selves to you
who have so fully and generously
given yourself to us.