Following the lead of secular culture, many Christians place Christmas as the most important day in the Christian year. This article suggests that a more profound understanding of Christmas arises out of an awareness of the history of the Christian year. Christmas should be understood in light of the events which follow—Epiphany and, eventually, Easter.
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), commonly known as the “Quaker Poet,” was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Beginning life as a farm boy and village shoemaker, and with only a limited education, he entered the profession of journalism in 1828.
Charles Wesley (1708-1788) has been called “the poet of Methodism.” Born in Epworth, England in 1707 he was educated at Westminster School and Oxford University, where he took his degree in 1728.
Isaac Watts (1674-1748) is considered the father of English hymnody. Born in Southampton, England, he was a precocious child who learned to read almost as soon as he could speak and wrote verses while still a young boy.
Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-1778) was born in Surrey, England to an affluent family. He visited Ireland at the age of 16 and converted to Christianity at a service held in a barn – an experience he considered both ironic and providential since he had felt no spiritual yearnings at the grand cathedral his family attended.
Gerhard Tersteegen (1697-1769), a pious mystic of the eighteenth century, was born in Mörs, Germany. He was apprenticed as a young man to his older brother, a shopkeeper. He purchased a humble cottage near Mühlheim, where he led a life of seclusion and self-denial for many years.
John Keble (1792-1866) graduated from Oxford in 1810 and was ordained in 1815. In 1827 he published his well-known volume, The Christian Year; ninety-six editions of which appeared before his death.