“God’s people have begun to know the manger of their Lord.”

The Adoration of the Shepherds, Mantegna

The great Raymond E. Brown has often been a guide to me when it comes to the Christmas narratives in the New Testament. Here is an example of his insight — applied to the Christmas Eve Gospel (Luke 2).

May God grant us all a blessed Christmas Eve.

What is of importance is the description which follows: “She swaddled him in strips of cloth and laid him down in a manger, since there was no place for them in the lodgings.” Luke will keep coming back to this description, for the angels will tell the shepherds: “This will be your sign: You will find a baby swaddled in strips of cloth and lying in a manger” (2:12). The shepherds will know that they have come to their goal when they have found “Mary and Joseph, with the baby lying in the manger” (2:16). Speculations as to why there was no room in the lodgings erroneously distract from Luke’s purpose, as do homilies about the supposed heartlessness of the unmentioned innkeeper or the hardship for the impoverished parents—equally unmentioned. Luke is interested in the symbolism of the manger, and the lack of room in the lodgings may be no more than a vague surmise in order to explain the mention of a manger. This manger is not a sign of poverty but is probably meant to evoke God’s complaint against Israel in Isaiah 1:3: “The ox knows its owner and the donkey knows the manger of its lord; but Israel has not known me, and my people have not understood me.” Luke is proclaiming that the Isaian dictum has been repealed. Now, when the good news of the birth of their Lord is proclaimed to the shepherds, they go to find the baby in the manger and begin to praise God. In other words, God’s people have begun to know the manger of their Lord.

Christ in the Gospels of the Liturgical Year (pp. 116-117)

14 thoughts on ““God’s people have begun to know the manger of their Lord.”

  1. The symbolism of the manger is not without import. He would become our food. Our salvation. The bread of life, broken for us. He was headed to the cross from the moment of his birth.


  2. Before the manger, there was a promise.
    The manger contained the promise.
    After the manger, there’s a different promise.
    Sort of.
    Or something like that.

    I like something I read recently (possibly even at iMonk): God didn’t create us to die, He created us to live. I think the same could be said of our earth: He didn’t create it to kill, He created it to be life-giving.

    Someday both humans and earth will be restored.

    Merry Christmas to my fellow iMonkers!


  3. from the people of the Magi descend the modern Kurds, our allies for a time on the battlefields of Syria
    brave men in battle . . . we deserted them there . . . but long ago, it was their ancestors who had come on a long journey following a Star to a place where a child lay in a manger . . . this child was WITH His mother
    and these Magi knelt before the Holy Child
    and they brought Him gifts
    and they prayed
    long ago


  4. Robert, Merry Christmas to you and your family. I pray that the Lord would touch you this season with a sense of certainty and Love


  5. Have I begun to know the manger of my Lord? So many doubts, so many uncertainties, that neither the years nor my endless going round in personal, spiritual, and theological circles seem to resolve. I’m not sure I’d recognize him if he whupped me upside the head. Manger? Baby? Where? I keep searching, but see no star to guide me. In the words of Samuel Beckett, “You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” My personal journey of the Magi.


  6. God bless you and yours this Christmastide, Susan. To echo Christiane’s words, I pray that you stay safe.


  7. Susan, so sad . . . the pictures of the fires on television were horrible

    I keep thinking of the little burned Koala who died . . . God have mercy

    Stay safe,
    sending hug


  8. at last count 973 families have no homes this Christmas due to the fires.
    Not even a stable.

    A happy and Holy Christmas to all from Aust.
    O come let us adore Him.


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