The story of the wisemen coming from the East to visit the young Christ occurs in only one of the Christian gospels and is considered by many to be a late inclusion to the story of Christ, but it is a curious account for other reasons as well.
Consider that the word ‘wisemen’ is a translation of the Greek word μάγοι, which is sometimes better translated as ‘magi’. This word was derived from Old Persian and refers primarily to the priests of Zoroastrianism, who were widely known for their knowledge of astrology, but it can also be used more broadly in reference to wisemen, interpreters of dreams, sorcerers, and magicians, and it is used elsewhere in the Christian scriptures to describe Elymas the Sorcerer and Simon Magus. In other words, despite many attempts to identify these magi as Jewish priests from Babylon or Persia or Yemen, this was almost certainly not the case, as is further evidenced by the fact that they needed to consult with the priests in Herod’s palace about the Jewish scriptures to learn where the Messiah was to be be born. This is not to say necessarily that the magi were entirely unfamiliar with Jewish faith and scriptures, since substantial Jewish populations had been taken captive into Babylon and Persia in earlier times, and since there were Jewish communities in many of the major cities to the East, but it is to note that these men were almost certainly from quite another land and quite another race and quite another faith entirely.
How strange is it, then, that the gospel of Matthew would record the magi as coming to offer gifts to the child Messiah? How strange is it that men who were regarded as sorcerers and magicians and astrologers, all of whom were forbidden by Jewish scriptures, were accorded such a prominent role in the story of Christ’s birth? Whether or not we regard the account as corresponding to some historical event, is this not a strange story to be telling about the one whom you believe to be the Messiah?
I have no good answers here, but perhaps it should make us see the magi a little differently when next we see them standing in somebody’s creche.