The word epiphany comes from the Greek, epiphaneia and means that the divine is manifested or appears, or alternatively, a striking appearance. I wonder what it must have been like for those who encountered the Christ, Divinity manifested in a little child.
First of all to Mary, having God himself growing from a tiny zygote to a newborn babe needing to be nursed and dressed and cleaned and loved. Then Joseph, whose part in Christ's life was first and foremost a protector and adopted father. How humble, selfless and trusting were the two of them. Of course there were the shepherds. I guess when one of God's messengers brings you news of the Lord and Savior's birth, (complete with directions to the location), and a whole host of them begin praising God, the sheep can wait. The epiphany for them was so great, they couldn't keep quiet about it, and there was Mary again, "treasuring up all those things and pondering them in her heart".
How long the wait must have seemed to Simeon, having been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Messiah, the Salvation of Israel before his death. So then, the promise fulfilled, he prophesied wonderful and disquieting words over the child, that the salvation will be for all people, even the Gentiles, many would rise an fall in Israel, hearts would be revealed and a sword would pierce Mary's heart. Dear Anna the prophetess was there also, 84 years old and long since a widow. Faithful in her devotion to the Lord and he rewarded her with this epiphany and she spread the word.
While all these manifestations of our Lord amaze us and cause us to wonder, today is set aside to remember the revelation to the Gentiles. Here is the scripture from the ESV, Matthew 2:1-12.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
"'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.'"
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
There has been a great deal of speculation regarding the wise men. How many were there, what was their profession, how did they know it was His star? There are even folk tales that have sprung up about their travels, one captured here in this children's book.
What we do know that they knew, was that the babe was a King whose arrival was foretold, to see him was worth a long and dangerous excursion, he was worthy of great and expensive gifts, and that he was to be worshiped. I hope I come to better understand what the Magi knew, whether they new it through the revelation of the stars, Holy Scriptures or direct Divine revelation. I, who am indwelt with the Holy Spirit, have several copies of the Holy Scriptures and receive Christ himself, manifested in the bread and wine, am a weak witness to such an Epiphany.