The feast of the Epiphany is January 6th, twelve days after Christmas. In the Western churches (including the Episcopal Church), Epiphany celebrates the arrival of the Wise Men from the East to the Christ child in Bethlehem.
Epiphany means “manifestation” or “revelation” or “appearing”. It makes sense that Epiphany season comes right after Christmas. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus; Epiphany is about the spread of the good news to the wider world.
The Feast of the Epiphany centers on the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem. In the Christmas story that St. Matthew tells us, wise men from the East study the stars and the prophecies, and detect the birth of the Savior. They travel to Bethlehem to pay homage to Jesus Christ, and they bring with them gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh.
The Gospel account doesn’t say that there are three magi, nor that they are kings. Over the years, our Christian ancestors described them as three kings named Balthesar, Melchior, and Caspar (although in different cultures they have different names.)
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
`And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 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. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.