Christmas celebrates the historical event called the Incarnation; the Son of God became man. Epiphany is the way that event is made known. God reveals the Incarnation to his chosen people. Christ was revealed to certain shepherds as they watched their flocks by night. Christ was revealed to Simeon and Anna in the temple. The magi were led to Christ by a star. Epiphany season highlights the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God in his baptism, in the miracle at Cana, and in the healings of a leper and a centurion’s servant.
Christ is revealed but also concealed. The magi asked, “Where is he who is born king of the Jews?” They asked this question publicly in Jerusalem because they assumed that an event of such universal importance would be known to all, or at least to the leaders of the nation. If the stars were speaking to them at a distance, surely all who were actually there would know. But all who were there didn’t know. In fact, very few who were there knew.
This is the mystery of Epiphany. God reveals his Son to certain chosen people, and God conceals his Son from others. As Jesus said,
I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him (Luke 10:21-22).
Epiphany continues in our own stories of how we have come to know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. We have all had some form of epiphany, some star, some event or series of events that led us to Christ. The star may have been a faithful parent or relative. It may have been something wonderful or tragic that happened. It may have been a miracle or some experience of prayer. It may have been the ability to discern how God has worked providentially in our lives to bring his good out of suffering. But, there is not faith without an epiphany.
God continues to reveal Christ to us. The event or series of events that led us to faith were only the beginning. We grow in in our understanding of Christ and his will and we continue in the life of prayer, and we look forward to the Day when we will see him clearly, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). Thus, Epiphany is a season to think about how we have been led to Christ, and to pray that God will continue to reveal Christ to us. As Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7).