Hannah was a good sport about it all, never complaining about a thing ... and she really seemed to be feeling pretty good that Christmas. We could see the signs, though, subtle at first, and then accelerating rapidly, that she would be leaving us soon.
That Christmas was so surreal. She was here with us, yet we knew (without a miraculous intervention from God) that she would be leaving us soon. And we knew that Christmas would never been the same. Yet, for our girls' sake, we had to carry on as if everything was just fine. The only word I can think of to describe that day is agonizing. There was such a feeling of hopelessness pervading the entire day.
Fast forward five years to Christmas 2013. Instead of my two girls helping me decorate the tree, these two did the job all by themselves this year. Notice the JOY all over our tree (and all over their faces)!
This Christmas, too, had a touch of the surreal to it. Because this year, we knew that Bethany would be leaving us soon. Ah, but it's different ... In just under five months, her dad will be walking her down an aisle, and she'll be saying her vows and changing her name. And once again, our family Christmas will never be the same.
But this time, there was no hopelessness, no despair, no dread of what was to come. Instead there was excitement and joyful anticipation of the future.
And when I really stop and think about it ... should the two Christmases really have been so different? Yes ... one is clearly very painful, and one is not. And yet ... No.
Both Hannah and Bethany had/have much to look forward to. Bethany has a wedding and marriage to look forward to, and all that goes along with that. But Hannah ... she had Heaven to look forward to! And a godly marriage, as wonderful as that is, pales in comparison to Heaven.
And the cool thing about all of this is that (because of God's gift at Christmas) one day our family will be reunited in Heaven at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Thank God, there will be no empty chairs around our family table that day. And that will be better than any Christmas dinner we can imagine!
"Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, 'Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure' -- for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, 'Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.' And he said to me, 'These are the true words of God.'" Revelation 19:6-9