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Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible

Pastors get some of the darnedest, most interesting questions from people in their churches and people they meet. Here are a few that I’ve gotten over the years of my ministry and via email since this column started.

Dear Father Paul: Another Christmas season is upon us. Another orgy of spending and debt for “stuff” most of us don’t need or want. I’m no “Scrooge,” but I’ve about had it with Christmas. Why can’t Christmas be like it was when I was a kid (I’m 68)? Is there any hope for Christmas?

— Dana

Dear Dana: Christmas is on life-support ... no doubt about it. What is essentially a Christian religious holiday (Christ’s Mass) has been mugged and kidnapped by secular and commercial interests to the point that it is no longer recognizable to anyone over 40 or 50 years old.

Madison Avenue has done a thorough job of convincing Americans that we must buy, buy, buy ... spend, spend, spend to observe a proper Christmas. During the next few weeks we’ll be bombarded with the idea that Christmas is really about “things” or “stuff.” Every night the TV news will track “seasonal” spending, and we’ll be told that there will be hard economic days ahead if Americans don’t spend at least as much this Christmas as last year.

Basically, Americans have been brainwashed over decades on the idea that “love equals buying gifts,” and the more costly, the better. The average American family will spend from 4 to 6 percent of their entire annual income on Christmas. Wow!

I often wonder what God thinks about it all.

The huge guilt many feel because they have been “priced out of a meaningful Christmas” can be very painful. My own 92-year-old mother teared up when I visited her last week and she informed me that she wouldn’t be able to spend as much on gifts for her kids, grand kids and great-grand kids this year as last year. How sad.

Let me make it clear that I’m no Grinch! I enjoy Santa, Christmas trees, lights and (yes) presents as much as the next guy. I’ll buy gifts for those I love and I enjoy getting gifts as well. But my family and I will keep our Christmas well within a reasonable budget, and we absolutely will not go into debt. But most importantly, uppermost in everything else we’ll do this Christmas will be to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus ... the real meaning of Christmas.

We’ll have a festive family dinner on Christmas Day, and exchange a reasonable number of modest gifts. But we’ll all be in church on Christmas Eve for a joyous candle light service. We’ll pray prayers of thanks that God sent his son Jesus to redeem us from eternal death ... and we’ll read the Christmas story out loud from Luke Chapter 2 for the grown-ups and children alike.

Most of all, we’ll try to focus on relationships, not things. We’ll concentrate on drawing closer to the people we love and to God, not stuff.

I believe that Christmas can and must be saved Dana, but it will take courage to swim against the tide of commercialism. It begins with my family and yours.

Merry Christmas.

Dear Father Paul: Our preacher preaches against the sin of pride a lot. I’m 10 years old. Why is pride such a big deal to God?

— Robert

Dear Robert: Sin is an archery term. It literally means “missing the mark.” Lucifer, who was one of God’s Arch Angels in heaven was the first sinner, and his sin was one of pride. He said to himself, “I’m better and smarter than God, I should be in charge, not God.” Later, after God threw him out of heaven, he sold the same idea to Adam and Eve and they bought his lie. He even tried to tempt Jesus with pride. Pride elevates ourselves above God and his authority. It says, “I know more than God, I’m going to do what I want to do ... I don’t care what God says.” Basically, pride is rebellion against God, that’s why it is so serious.

Pride is one of the hardest sins to see in ourselves, but somehow most of us don’t seem to have a problem seeing it in others.

I very much like the parable Jesus taught in Luke 18 ... “some who were confident (prideful) of their own righteousness, and looked down on everybody else, prayed pride filled prayers in the temple, while a humble tax collector simply cried out to God, ‘God, have mercy on me a sinner.’” This is the attitude that pleases God, not one of pride.

The wonderful good news is that God forgives all sins, including pride, when we confess and repent.

A personal note: My thanks and gratitude to all of you who prayed for my wife, Dr. Judy Massey, while she was on a three week mission trip to Mongolia last month. She returned home Nov. 20 and the mission was a huge success.

Got a question? Email me at or phone 678-457-3050.

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