This morning as I stacked the Bibles and books we used in our personal morning devotions, I thought of a bit of advice my mother gave me many years ago.
"When you are stacking books, always put the Bible on top of the pile. The Bible is a book above all others and putting it on top shows proper respect."
To this day, I feel guilty if I put another book on top of the Bible and will change it. The Bible belongs on top of the pile.
Since we're so close to Christmas, this morning I thought about how that principle relates to our observance of Christmas. The birth of Jesus is the reason the Christmas celebration began. In an effort to Christianize a pagan festival, the Catholic church instituted a mass to celebrate the birth of Christ. That may have been a good thing but it has evolved into another pagan festival with all kinds of things that have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus.
Christmas means different things to different people in different places. In the northern hemisphere we associate snow with Christmas but that is simply due to our location and the time of year Christmas is celebrated. Many people do not dream of a white Christmas because it is in their summer. How many other trappings of Christmas have we adapted from our culture that have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus? Think about this:
I don't know when Mennonites began observing Christmas, but our immigrant ancestors did not observe the day in the 1700s. The Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed and Moravian churches did, but it was a worldly holiday to the Mennonites. To them, Christmas was just another day like any other. When did that begin to change? I don't know but I'm guessing it happened gradually in the 1800s as Mennonites became settled in America and began to assimilate into the culture. It may have begun with something as innocent as giving the children some candy on Christmas morning and continued until the whole nine yards was accepted.
Let me hasten to say I am not a Scrooge who is thumbs down on celebrating Christmas. It is good for us to remember the birth of Jesus and what His coming means to us today. Christmas traditions can vary with families. We have ours, too. One of them is eating Moravian Sugar Cake for Christmas breakfast. Whatever your traditions are and however you observe Christmas, remember to keep Jesus on top of the pile.