They had no idea that others would not welcome such wonderful news with open arms. They could not comprehend that wily, King Herod, may have had another agenda (Matthew 2:1-8) when he sent them off to Bethlehem to find the baby. I mean they'd travelled the world just for the opportunity to worship the baby king and offer him gifts. Who wouldn't be excited about a new chance for the world; the possibility of a leader who could bring real peace? You just couldn't wipe the smile off their faces when they felt that they were getting close (Matthew 2:10).

Imagine Mary's surprise when she opened the door of her one room, working-class cottage in Bethlehem to see a group of dignified Persian philosophers and scientists climbing down off their camels. Imagine her wide-eyed wonder when they prostrated themselves in front of the toddler in her arms and honoured him with wonderful words of worship (Matthew 2:11). Imagine her deep gratitude when they offered Jesus expensive gifts that would support her little family for many years.

Then these Magi climbed back on to their camels and disappeared into the sunset. (Well actually the sunrise to be more accurate, seeing they were from the East.) They had travelled to Israel on the strength of a star, and fulfilled their dream. They actually head the list of millions of Gentiles who have worshipped Jesus as the Son of God.

Because they were truth-seekers

The mysterious Magi show us that God's work is much greater than we often envisage. Imagine God bringing eastern astrologers to worship his Son in Bethlehem through the medium of a new astrological phenomenon and the advice of Herod the horrible. Oh I realise that Scripture also played a part (Matthew 2:5-6), but God's revelation through astrology seems a little questionable. However, the more I read Scripture and the more I study God's work, the more I realise that you can't fit God in a box. It was just like the God I'm growing to know, to bring philosophers from Persia to worship his baby boy in the backwoods of Israel. I love a God who does the unexpected and impossible. I can just imagine him saying to the angels with a smile on His face, "Now my Son's birth is to be a local, family affair generally unnoticed by the world, but, hey, I think I'll throw in a huge angel choir, and some wealthy astrologers from Persia for good measure." Don't think that you can second-guess God. He's far too immense and powerful and astute for that. Let God be God and just worship Him.

But what I find really surprising about this Scripture is not so much the way God works, I'm used to being astounded by that, but the faith of the Magi. On the basis of what must have been a few whimsical dreams, they set off to find and worship this newborn king. Oh, God may have spoken to them directly or in a dream (He certainly did in Matthew 2:12), but we find no evidence of this in the passage. Just a new star (Matthew 2:2), and they're gone.

I guess this shouldn't surprise me, because it has always been the nature of seekers. The people living alongside Joseph and Mary may have thought that the baby next door was just another squawking toddler, but the Magi from across the world didn't. They were searching for truth and purpose and spiritual reality, and they recognised that this baby was central to the future of the world. What are months, maybe years, on the road when you're going to worship a world-changing king?