“the baby lying in the manger.” Because Jesus was now in swaddling clothes and in the manger, the arrival of the shepherds would have been some time after the actual birth of Jesus. The women helping Mary would have cleaned things up after the birth, and gotten the mother and baby boy ready for the men to see. The men, outside celebrating the birth of a boy, would have come in to see him, and shortly after the shepherds would have arrived too. It would not have been hard to find the house in a small village like Bethlehem. Jesus would almost certainly have been the only boy born that night in the village, and it was customary to have a big celebration with music and food when a boy was born. The shepherds could have easily followed the noise to where Jesus was born.
One of the ways we know that Jesus was born in a loving household that was taking good care of him, and not in a stable, was that the shepherds were godly men who had been awaiting the Promised Messiah. Immediately after the angels left them, they “went with haste” to Bethlehem, and after they saw the child they were so excited they told the people of the area about him, and then they went back to their work, “glorifying and praising God.” If those godly shepherds saw that Jesus and the family were not being well cared for, they would have been scandalized and outraged and immediately invited the family to their own homes and treated this promised Messiah like the royalty he was.
The noise of the celebration about Jesus’ birth was customary and would have led the shepherds right to the house where Jesus was born. It was a common custom that when a baby boy was born there was a huge celebration, but when a baby girl was born there was no celebration. That was because boys added to the family and girls took away from it. It was customary that when a young couple married, they lived in the boy's parents’ home (usually a room was added, or a room built on the roof, and that custom continues today in much of the Middle East). Also, unlike in Europe or in early biblical times, after the Babylonian Captivity it became the custom that it was the girl’s side of the family that paid the dowry.a So while a boy brought another female to help, and grandchildren, and money, into the family, the girl cost the family what it took to raise her, then cost them money to have her married, and then she left the family.
[For more information on the birth of Jesus, see commentary on Luke 2:7. For information on the Magi arriving over a year later, and not being present at the birth of Christ, see commentary on Matthew 2:1.]