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Christmas: God sent Jesus to save us

The husband-wife team of Alicia and Ben Hilding serve as associate pastors at Bethel Lutheran Church. (Hudson Star-Observer photo by Doug Stohlberg)

“When I think of Christmas I find it earthshaking,” said Bethel Lutheran Church Associate Pastor Alicia Hilding. “It’s an amazing God who would send his Son into this world -- into this mess -- with the purpose of saving us, undeserving humans.”

Hilding is part of a husband-wife team at Bethel. Alicia and Ben Hilding were installed as associate pastors at Bethel last July. John Lestock is the senior pastor. Ben Hilding is a Hudson native, while his wife Alicia hails from Owatonna, Minn.

“God, who is divine, became human and tangible,” Alicia said. “It’s a remarkable story.”

Making the story more amazing is that God entered the world through a baby -- Jesus.

“Here’s an all-powerful God, entering the world as a baby,” Alicia said. “Jesus was completely dependent on other people.”

Ben said, “That’s the hope of Christmas. I don’t have to be someone else for God to get to me; Christmas is about a God that got to us.

“It’s not about changing what we see around us, but changing how we see what’s already in front of us -- God’s already there.”

Of course, the Christian belief is that Jesus entered the world so that humans could have their sins forgiven and have eternal life in heaven.

“We can’t earn God’s love,” Alicia said. “It comes as a gift and that gift of Jesus has already been given to us.”

When it comes to the Biblical Christmas story, both Ben and Alicia take a little different approach. The Christmas story comes in Luke, Chapter 2. Ben said, however, he sees the real story coming from the first Chapter of Matthew which outlines the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah.

Even church-goers find the chapter a bit tedious as it outlines 17 verses of genealogy: Jesus the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron -- on and on it goes.

“What impresses me about the chapter is that Jesus doesn’t deny the kind of family he comes from,” Ben said. “When you read the backgrounds of many of the ancestors, there are stories most people would not immediately want to tell to strangers.

“Instead of writing a resume of God’s big achievements, this chapter tells the story of people with human behavior -- sinners. The background includes everything from royalty to prostitutes. It’s a contrast that is so stark.

“What it does, however, is give me much hope.”

Ben said God is here to serve all people and He sent Jesus at Christmas so that no one has to go elsewhere to find hope.

Alicia said the other gripping part of the Christmas story is Jesus lived a perfect life, but is the descendent of sinners.

“God came into our culture 2,000 years ago and he continues to make himself known in our culture today,” Alicia said. “He came as a baby in the animal portion of a home and he continues to surprise us today. He is with us in new ways all the time.”

Both see a place in society for cultural celebrations of Christmas, be it Santa, Christmas trees or decorations.

“Those things can be fun,” Ben said. “But the consumer part of Christmas is fun for a period of time, then it is over. Santa comes once a year, the tree goes down. Then what?

“God and Jesus are not once-a-year participants in our lives; Jesus came for a lifetime.”

Alicia said it is easy for everyone to fall into the stressful part of Christmas.

“In the end, however, I believe our holiday activities are part of our effort to find God,” Alicia said. “Whether we are with family or having a special celebration, we are looking for that fulfilling moment. We are seeking God’s love and peace.

“Sometimes we find it in unexpected places. It might be meeting someone on the way home from the Christmas party. God often has surprise for us; what we expect is not always there.”

Both Alicia and Ben grew up in Christian families.

Ben, a 2006 graduate of Hudson High School, is the son of Juli and Jonathan Hilding of Hudson. He is a lifelong Bethel member.

Alicia Hilding was raised in Owatonna, Minn. where she attended Trinity Lutheran Church (the former church of Bethel’s Senior Pastor, John Lestock).

Both are graduates of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., and Luther Seminary in St. Paul. They were married in 2009.

Doug Stohlberg

Doug Stohlberg has been part of the Hudson Star-Observer since 1973 and has been editor since 1987. He worked at the New Richmond News from 1971 to 1973. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

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