We are currently half-way into the Season of Epiphany in this Church Year. Epiphany is both a special "holy day" on the Church calendar. January 6, and then morphs into a season which extends each year until the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday (which this year is March 6.)
Ash Wednesday occurs 46 days before Easter. You may have wondered about the 46 days, instead of the 40 days which we associate with Jesus' forty days of temptation in the wilderness. That is because there are six Sundays in Lent, but Sundays are always counted as feast days, or days of relaxation of fasting. So while they occur in lent they are not as "Lenty" and don't count in calculating the forty days of Lent...
Each year I have to remind myself and look up how the date for Easter is calculated. This changes each year and is determined by the celestial phases of the moon. The following explanation of how this complex calculation of the date of Easter came about follows: In 325 AD, the Council of Nicea, (the council which, you remember, formulated the Nicean Creed) established a formula for the date of Easter as the Sunday following the paschal full moon, which is the full moon that falls on or after the spring equinox (which in the northern hemisphere, occurs around March 21), when the sun moves north across the celestial equator. In practice, this means that Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon that falls on or after March 21. Easter can occur as early as March 22 and as late as Aprll 25, depending on when the paschal full moon occurs. Whew! Now that we've got that cleared up!
The theological significance of Epiphany is that it celebrates the manifestation of Jesus' birth, the birth of the Messiah, to all peoples ( not only as the Messiah for the Jewish people) and the foreign visitors, the mysterious Magi (a.k.a. The Wise Men; the Three kings) symbolize this announcement to, and reception of, God's Grace to all the world.
I have found some additional and, to me interesting information about the visit of the Magi. It is widely agreed that the liturgical calendar set by the monk Dionysius Exiguus in the sixth century was off by four, and more likely five years, so that the birth of Jesus Christ actually occurred five years BC (Before Christ)!
Also, it is likely that the Magi (not appropriately labeled "Kings") arrived in Judea, first Jerusalem and then Bethlehem, at least several months and perhaps closer to two years after the nativity. (also a clue as to why Herod nest ordered the killing of all male children up to two years of age.) Given that the Magi were probably traveling from Persia, the long journey would have been a thousand miles and taken considerable time.
Also, there has been much speculation that these Wise Men were probably astrologers, studying the celestial bodies for guidance. Two scientists, modern astronomers, have used special computer programs to simulate the movement of planets and stars during those years during the adjusted time of Jesus' Birth. Each have proposed that the movement of the planet Jupiter, according to computer simulations, may have been in proper alignment to actually have served as "the star of Bethlehem".
Additionally, one of the scientists is a coin collector and discovered and bought an ancient Judean coin depicting the astrological figure of Aries (the Ram) looking back over its shoulder toward a star. Aries, the Ram, was an ancient symbol for Judea. The computer analysis showed Jupiter during that time comprising part of the constellation Aries The "star" Jupiter would have led the Magi toward Judea holding its position i the sky ahead of them on their journey.
I am intrigued by the story of the Magi and I have been very interested to learn that there are a number of factors which support the likelihood that the visitation of the Magi to the Child of Bethlehem actually took place. The Magi story is not some "pie in the sky' attempt to bolster the significance of Jesus' birth, but instead, Epiphany is truly a season with reason.