How many people still have their Christmas tree up? Still wishing folk a merry Christmas? Because as we all well know Christmas doesn’t end until Epiphany, unless you are Ukrainian…then it begins today! Merry Christmas! Haha! Christmas lasts forever!  But really today is the end of the Christmas Season.  The feast of the epiphany. Epiphany is a major festival, not simply the day the wise men arrived.  But the day we celebrate Christ’s revelation to humanity.  The word Epiphany means manifestation and the manifestations celebrated on epiphany go beyond simply the wise men.  There are three revelations celebrated during epiphany.  1) the revelation of Christ to the gentiles…via the wise men.  2) the revelation of Christ as ‘son of God’ in his baptism…you recall the dove and a voice from heaven ‘this is my son, the beloved’.  Finally, the revelation of Christ through the miracle of Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine. Each of these is celebrated in the feast of Epiphany, and as such the feast of Epiphany was initially far more important then Christmas.  Who Christ is…being more important then how Christ was born. Now we barely celebrate Epiphany…we celebrated Christ’s birth on the 25th and today the only thing that seems to be left is for the wise men to be put in the crèche. In fact for many of us it seems that the point of epiphany is simply to fill the crèche….we have the sheep and manger, Mary and Joseph,  the Christ child, shepherds and angels and now in their turn three kings and their requisite camel. Filling the crèche helps us illustrate a story we know and love, and over time people have enjoyed filling in the blanks and padding the details to make a good show of it. For example, If we simply look at facts for our Christmas crèche, the ancient text tells us that Jesus was wrapped and laid in a manger because there was no place in the guest room… but over time we have created tidy stables and a whole stories that revolve around knocking at inn doors. Furthermore, today we have the three kings, … famed in song and story…and all we were really told in the bible was that there were magi who came from the East. But those Magi have captured the imagination and fuelled the theology of many since the earliest days.  So that now that small text which spoke of magi from the east has blossomed into the visit of Kings, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar… and the traditional carol We Three King which even condescends to informing us about their skin colour. So why are we so keen to fill in all these details in the first place?   One reason may be that at Christmas we are used to the rich and detailed gospel of Luke…with the poetic birth narratives of Christ.  In Luke we get lovely stories like Mary and Elizabeth meeting and embracing, we have Mary and Joseph’s travels and angels proclaiming Christ’s birth to shepherds in nearby hills. However, it’s only the gospel of Luke that gives such a Sunday School story. John’s birth of Christ is far more esoteric ‘In the beginning was the Word’ and all the pre creation origins of Christ, In Mark, the gospel is far too mission oriented to bother at all with Jesus birth at all and skips over the first 30 some odd years of Jesus’ life entirely. Whereas Matthew…he was a humanist…showing how through prophecy and agency God’s kingdom brings light to a dark world.  Unlike Luke’s narrative, Matthew’s gospel would never make a Sunday school pageant .  Matthew’s gospel focuses on politics, power and the darker circumstances around of Jesus birth as well as its consequences. In Matthew we read of prophesy fulfilled, Herod’s envy and the consequent massacre of infants, we read the holy family fleeing to Egypt and taking refuge there till the murderous Herod is dead. It’s not a pretty tale and it paints a very different side of the story from Luke…but it’s also the only gospel in which we meet the magi.   So, you’d think that the Magi we know would be framed in a world of politics and intrigue.  Yet we seem to view them through the lens of a Luken pageant and of Christmas magic…pretty gifts, pretty costumes and a magical star that leads them on a romanticized quest. The Magi aren’t merely there to illustrate the miraculous nature of Christ birth to humble peoples, but to fulfill a much greater role.  The magi illustrate the emergence of light for all people, in a world that is full of darkness.  The represent Christ’s epiphany. The world Christ was not only born into, but sent into, was an hostile and dangerous world.  The country was ruled by foreign powers and puppet governors, there were terrorist groups active in the area and the average person was poor and in need….it was a world full of darkness in desperate need of light. Matthew is determined to not only show that in Christ this light has come for the salvation of all, but that it coming was always intended. Matthew introduces his gospel with an account of the lineage of Jesus the Messiah, son of David, son of Abraham…immediately linking Christ with two of the biggest and most influential figures in Jewish history…people who had a special relationship with God. Then he goes on to the visitation of the angels to Mary and Joseph… and Matthew makes sure to emphasize that this was pre-ordained…“all this took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet”.  This is a unique and common citation in Matthew’s gospel, unique in that it only happens in Matthew’s gospel, and common in that within that gospel it happens a lot! According to Matthew, God has a plan which has been long in its fulfillment….beginning with Abraham and continuing ….well, still continuing. The feast of epiphany is a celebration of that plan.  Originally with the manifestation of Christ’s birth, subsequently with the manifestation of the Holy Spirit with Christ at his baptism and the wedding at Cana now interpreted as the manifestation of Christ to all peoples. We read in Matthew that the magi from the east observed Christ’s star at its rising and came to find him and pay him homage.  Magi were commonly understood to be astrologers, among other things, and they watched the skies for signs and wonders to learn about what is and was and is to come.  They sought out truth in the skies…just as the people of Israel sought out truths from the words of the prophets. The Magi had sought out the King of Jews in Jerusalem…in the palace of Herod, the current King and only then found out about the prophecies about the Messiah’s humble origins. The halls of power are not usually places of rising light and salvation, rather the opposite.  Herod’s palace was a place of intrigue, murder, ambition and avarice.  Not a place Christ was born into, but a place Christ was sent to bring light to.  The Magi sought a King whose rising would bring light and life…and they found him where they least expected. Through his life and death Christ’s light was made manifest in the darkness that surrounded him, reaching out to those both near and far and exposing everyone’s dark secrets to light…and turing everything upside down. That’s what Herod fears …that light would pierce the darkness of his kingship, the evils and the shames that surrounded him and those around him… perhaps gaining him salvation, but at the cost of losing his power and prestige. And Herod wasn’t going to risk that… and so we find Herod trying to extinguish that light, to prevent Christ’s Kingdom from arising we read that Herod arranged to have all boys under the age of two in all the areas in and around Jerusalem…killed.  Not very good pageant material. and having been warned in a dream our Magi went home without reporting back to Herod and the holy family took refuge in Egypt.   And of course, Matthew tells us that all of this fulfills more prophecy and shows God’s plan for salvation had begun long, long ago. And continues long after those prophecies were written down… God’s plan to lighten the darkness and bring salvation to all people continues with us to this day. At Epiphany we celebrate how all people …Be they Jew or Gentile, humble or powerful, … are able to seek out Christ’s rising… following sign and prophesy until they too meet Christ in the place lest expected. The Magi looked for a King in a palace and found only darkness, they followed his light and found him in a humble family home. Throughout the story of the Magi we find that following Christ’s light leads us to extraordinary places…and that even in the deepest darkness and the furthest places, Christ’s light shines ready to lead us and bring us to light and salvation. So perhaps we should leave our Christmas lights and decorations up for Epiphany as a symbol of how that light that shines in the darkness.  The light of Christ which continues from Abraham to light our lives this day and into the future.  And as a reminder for each of us, in our humble family homes, that we too house the Messiah and that the Christ is not only in our crèche scenes, but in our lives.  Bringing light to the dark places and salvation to all peoples. amen