“For behold, Magi (μάγος, plural, μάγοι, a Greek word of an earlier Persian origin) from the east arrived in Jerusalem asking ‘Where is the one born king of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.’” 
Who were these mysterious foreign “wise men and kings” who journeyed to Bethlehem, seeking to worship the newborn King of Israel? Jewish historian, Philo, in the first century referred to Balaam (Num. 22–24) as a magus. Cicero described the magi as “wise and learned men among the Persians.”  Pliny the Elder, in his 37 volume History of Natural Sciences, suggested that “authorities are agreed” the Magi were of Persian origin, connected to Babylon and the ancient Zoroastrian religion, who studied the stars, interpreted dreams and practiced unusual healing methods which came to be known as “magic.” A hundred years later, the Latin church Father, Tertullian understood the Magi to be Persian astrologers, also considered kings.
Whether magicians, astronomers, wise men, or kings, the significance of these enigmatic foreigners who appear on the scene is not because they have been assiduously studying the stars, or that they avoid falling into King Herod’s scheme because of having accurately interpreted a dream! They are especially noteworthy because they represent the fulfillment of a prophesy that God would manifest Himself to Israel and then be revealed to all the nations of the world.
There are multiple echoes in Isaiah’s prophesy here: that a redeemer shall come to Israel and all nations shall come to the light. “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.”  and “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.”  bringing “gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the LORD.” 
Shepherds on the hillsides, as they watched their sheep, may have also pondered the stars, but in a different way than the Magi. They were not learned scientists or esotericists led by the accuracy of inner and outer ratios they had come to recognize in the rhythms of the cosmos. God brought them to the manger of His Newborn Son through hearing the voices of the angels in the deep stillness of a winter’s night.
Both the Magi and the Shepherds acted on what had been revealed to them. They were not passive. The birth of Jesus described in St. Matthew’s Gospel reveals that there are many routes to God who draws us to life uniquely, but all share in common, a profound interest in the revealing of heaven on earth that does not come about by human intelligence alone nor by “the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of God.” 
Theophany and Epiphany are Greek words referring to “manifestation of God” and “manifestation from above” respectively. Both refer to actions initiated from Heaven that are revealed on earth, uniting the peoples of the earth in a common response according to each one’s capacity. The Magi carried frankincense, gold and myrrh with them to offer the new born King. Shepherds, out of their poverty, brought humility, wonder, and faith, even more precious, and joined prophetically with the Magi in revealing this Child’s future as a Shepherd, King, Prophet and Priest.
In this way, another revealing occurs. Some prophecies are known by the prophet, as in the case of the magi whose gifts suggest some awareness of these things, while the shepherds, called by God, were prophets without realizing that in their simple obedience to God’s summons, they served in this way for all who have ears to hear and eyes to see from the heart.
In the Orthodox Church, The Feast of Theophany commemorates the revealing which takes place at the baptism of the Lord in the Jordan river through which “the Trinity was made manifest” in the form of a dove and a voice coming from Heaven. It is celebrated on January 6th with the blessing of the waters.
January 6th in Western Christianity, including among some Orthodox, is often referred to as Epiphany because it commemorates the revealing of God to the world beyond Israel in the form of the three Magi, fulfilling the prophesy of Isaiah.
It is said that no one seeks after God to whom God has not first revealed Himself. Life itself is such a revelation where strangely, in our quotidian days, God often seems most hidden. Perhaps this is because we lack the guileless practicality and simplicity of shepherds as well as the assiduous ascetical scientific labors of the Magi.
When I think of the meanings signified by both Epiphany and Theophany in light of the great truth of The Holy Trinity taking initiative to be known and loved in all these hidden places, I recall lines from an Elizabeth Barrett Browning poem which I find both challenging and comforting:
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit around and pluck blackberries.
and a favorite quotation from St. Gregory of Nyssa that seems especially relevant for shepherds… kings…and all the rest of us.
“Who seeks God constantly has found Him.”
The illustration above is from the catacombs of Priscilla in Rome, around the 3rd century, the earliest known depiction of the Magi.
 Mt :1-2
 Bostock, J., M.D. Pliny the Elder, The Natural History, Book XXX, Ch. 1, “The Origin of the Magic Art.”
 Is. 60:1.
 Is. 60:2.
 Is 60:6.
 Jn. 1:13.