The feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord commemorates no event but presents an idea that assumes concrete form only through the facts of our Lord's life. The idea of Epiphany is that the Christ who was born in Bethlehem is recognized by the world as God. At Christmas, God appears as man, and at Epiphany, this man appears before the world as God. That Christ became man needed no proof. But that this man, this helpless child, is God needed proof. The manifestations of the Trinity, the signs and wonders performed by this man, and all His miracles have the purpose of proving to men that Jesus is God. Lately, especially in the Western Church, the story of the Magi has been associated with this feast day. As Gentiles who were brought to faith in Jesus Christ, the Magi represent all believers from the Gentile world.
Did you spot the problem? It's rather like that little story of a batch of brownies tainted by just a small amount of dog droppings. For the most part, the batch of brownies can be considered "good" in that it has the usual, tasty (and fattening) ingredients, but that little bit of doggie doo-doo taints the whole batch. Likewise here in this reading.
What is the problem? The notion that Epiphany "commemorates no event but presents an idea that assumes concrete form only through the facts of our Lord's life" (emphasis added). How utterly Platonic (from Plato the Greek philosopher who advocated the ideal over the more material)! What an open door to Gnostic tendencies that spurn the material world, created by God and good, and favor the speculative!
On Epiphany do we really set aside and celebrate this great feast day of the Church for "an idea," not an event, even if that "idea" "assumes concrete form"? I was under the impression that we have such ceremonies "for this reason alone, that the uneducated be taught what they need to know about Christ" (Augsburg Confession, XXIV:3; Concordia, p. 47).
No, I say drop the strange notion of presenting and commemorating "an idea" becoming concrete (Can you say, "Ugh, how philosophical!"?) and instead cling to the event that Epiphany does indeed celebrate: the Son of God in the flesh revealing Himself as the light and life of the world. We see this in the story of the Magi coming to worship the Infant Jesus. We also see it in our Lord approaching John the Baptist to be baptized and thus reveal Himself along with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Yes, Virginia, these are events, not merely an idea.
Actually, we celebrate the Epiphany of Our Lord by focusing on a Person--Jesus, the very Son of God made flesh, even as He's wearing diapers and nursing at His mother's breast. We celebrate His work of revealing Himself to the world, both by becoming flesh and then by showing Himself to the world, first to the Jews (e.g. presentation in the Temple), then to the Gentiles (e.g. the Magi).
Perhaps the underlying problem in this little reading on this Epiphany of Our Lord is that it sees Christmas and Epiphany as two separate events. Let's not tear asunder what God has joined together. Christmas and Epiphany are a package deal. Together they give us the God who took on flesh, the God who humbled Himself to become one of us, the God who reveals Himself as both God and Man, the God who restores us to life with Him. For that matter, also keep the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension in the package. After all, Epiphany doesn't mean anything with out "the rest of the story."
No, Epiphany is not about a mere idea, even if it somehow becomes concrete. Rather, Epiphany is about the very real, very flesh and blood Son of God and the very real event of Him manifesting Himself to us. Yes, Virginia, there is an Epiphany event.