1383542_10202491903806626_1740966647_nHolidays can be really hard. For many this is a season of lights, presents and parties. For many others, this season brings a heaviness and void that can’t be filled. I fall in that second group. Christmas in our home was my moms super bowl. If you ever spent Christmas Eve at 83 Woodrow in Bedford, Ohio, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Many that will read this were in our home to celebrate. Many probably also left our home that night with a handmade parting gift from the tree. Most years it was an angel of some kind. There would often be a complete stranger in our home along with the other annual guests. It could be someone they met in the grocery store, or a new visitor to the church. It didn’t matter who it was, they were welcomed.

My Mom loved Christmas and I loved my Mom.

A few years ago, a close friend fought cancer to the very end. Within days of Christmas, he put down his armor and stepped into eternity with his Savior. I still miss my friend Stef.

Just this week I was exchanging texts with a close friend who is in a season of saying goodbye to his father. My heart hurts for him. I have never met his father, but I know that he raised one heck of a son.

So why all of this now? Why the heavy post? Because for any of you walking through this season hurting, I want to hand this post over to Max Lucado. In his book “When Christ Comes”, he paints a beautiful picture that each of us can use and an anchor. He paints a picture of our (their) arrival in Heaven…

But Jesus isn’t finished. He loves to save the best for last, and I can’t help but imagine him doing the same in heaven. You’ve seen the neighbors, the coworkers, the people you hardly knew, the foreigners you never knew, but there is one more group. And Jesus parts the crowd so you will see them.

Your family.

Your spouse is the first to embrace you. There were times when you wondered if either of you would make it. But now you hear the words whispered in your ear, “Thanks for not giving up on me.”

Then your parents. No longer frail like you last saw them, but robust and renewed. “We’re proud of you,” they say. Next come your children. Children for whom you cared and over whom you prayed. They thank you; over and over they thank you. They know how hard it was, and how hard you tried, and they thank you.

And then some faces you don’t recognize. You have to be told – these are grandchildren and great-grandchildren and descendants you never saw until today. They, like the others, thank you for an inherited legacy of faith.

They thank you.

I don’t know about you, but that gets me all kinds of choked up. It gives me a picture so incredible as I envision those I’ve lost in this scene. Surrounded by all those that they have touched. Welcomed home.

It also gives me a challenge. It causes me to consider that stranger at the grocery store or the new person at church. Just as my mom would invite them into our home, she would invite them into a glimpse of Christ. No big sermons. No flashy worship songs. Just one on one, love for a complete stranger. A stranger that may one day walk up to her in Heaven and simply say “thank you.”

Praying for each of you this holiday season as we remember those we’ve lost. I can’t say for sure, but if my Mom has anything to say about it, they’ll be invited to a memorable Christmas Eve somewhere in Heaven too.