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 Luke is proclaiming that the Isaian dictum has been repealed.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)