Near the beginning of our common era, a child was born. Actually, lots of children were born at that time, but there was one baby boy in particular that was different from the rest. This baby boy was the Immanuel. He was God with us (Matthew 1:23).
On the night when Jesus was born, angels appeared to nearby shepherds. The angelic host told the shepherds of the birth of the Saviour, crying out the words, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" (Luke 2:14).
On that same glorious, angel-filled night, something else happened: a star appeared in the sky. Many, many miles away from the manger, a group of Magi saw the shining-wonder in the sky.
When we use the word "star" today, we often use it in a technical sense. We call massive, gaseous balls of energy flying around in space "stars". The world at the time of Christ would have been unfamiliar with such a definition of "star" (telescopes weren't invented until nearly 1500 years after the time of Christ).
It is important, then, not to import the modern meaning of "star" into the times of Christ. Doing so would only create trouble. Why? Because from the pages of Scripture, it's apparent that the star that the magi saw had some unusual characteristics that would not fit the modern definition of "star". The star that the magi saw was able to "go before them," and then eventually come to a rest in a certain place (Matthew 2:9).
When the Magi first saw the star appear at the time of Christ's birth, they began their long journey. The Magi, somehow, connected the appearance of the star to the birth of the King of the Jews. How they knew this, we do not know. Scripture tells us few specifics about the Magi, simply stating that they came from the general direction "east". The lack of specifics should not surprise us. Matthew's goal is not to give us a detailed biography of the Magi, but to give us knowledge of Christ.
Matthew tells us that the primary reason the Magi were looking for the King was so that they could worship Him. Since the Magi knew that they were looking for the King of the Jews, they logically traveled to Jerusalem, the city that was the world's center of Judaism. Perhaps they thought that out of all the cities in the world, Jerusalem would be the city that would know of this new King— and if they were lucky, perhaps the new King would already be in Jerusalem.
The Magi must have been shocked to discover that neither the king of Jerusalem nor the people of Jerusalem knew anything about the recent birth of their King. The simple, honest question that they asked when they arrived did not even bring joy to Jerusalem, but trouble— especially to King Herod.
Isaiah's Prophecy - Matthew 1:22-23
The Messiah the Jews Expected and the Messiah that Came
Was the Virgin Birth Necessary? Why was the Virgin Birth So Important?
Summary of Matthew 1