The Epiphany celebrates the birth of Jesus, and the visit by the wise men (Magi). God was revealed to the world through the incarnation of Jesus, and according to the Gospel of Saint Matthew, the Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh:-
On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Matthew 2: 11
In the Western churches, the Epiphany is a celebration of one element in the story of Christ’s birth, that is the visit of the far-travelled Magi, understood to be the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. Matthew’s account talks about wise men from the East visiting Jerusalem, where they made enquiries about a child who had been born King of the Jews (Matthew 2: 1). Later tradition fixed their number at three, made them Kings, and called them Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar.
In the Eastern churches, the Epiphany is a celebration of Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist, the time when the heavens opened, and a voice declared Jesus to be God’s beloved Son. The miracle of Cana, in Galilee, was when Jesus first manifested His glory:-
Manifest at Jordan’s stream,
Prophet, Priest, and King supreme;
and at Cana wedding-guest
in thy Godhead manifest.
The season of joyful celebration that started at Christmas carries on through Epiphany and ends with the Feast of the Presentation (Candlemas) on 2nd February. In accordance with the Law of Israel, the child who was manifested to the wise men at birth was presented in the Temple, where he was recognised by Simeon and Anna. He was both ‘a light to lighten the Gentiles’ and ‘the glory of God’s people Israel’, where redemption would be won through suffering. Simeon’s final words move attention away from the celebration of Christmas, towards the mystery of Easter.
For the Church in Wales, the Epiphany of our Lord was on Monday 6th January, and was celebrated in many Churches on Sunday 5th January. The Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Candlemas) will be celebrated on Sunday 2nd February.