I recently started collecting nativity scenes from around the world. It is so interesting to me how different people groups fill in the gaps of Scripture with their own explanations of what must have happened based on what makes sense in their culture.
The Christmas story is my favorite example. We are told Mary and Joseph traveled to Bethlehem where Mary gave birth to her first child whom she wrapped in cloths and placed in a manger because there was no guest room for them. There really aren’t a lot of details so we tend to fill in the gaps with our own ideas.
I personally have always imagined Mary and Joseph traveling alone. Did you know that in many cultures the story includes multiple family members because the idea that Joseph would deliver the child is ridiculous! Many stories include midwives or other females accompanying Mary on their trip to Bethlehem. This is because in the American culture it is common for a husband and wife to travel to the hospital alone and family members to stop by after the child is born, where in other countries births often happen in the couple’s home surrounded by relatives.
There are many other places in Scripture where we fill in the gaps with our own ideas and never stop to think about how our cultural upbringing may be causing us to perceive the story inaccurately, or at least in a biased way. Collecting nativity scenes reminds me to keep my heart open to other interpretations and to ask God for clarity on passages so my preconceived viewpoints do not cause me to miss the beautiful message God is trying to share.