The Tablecloth

As my pastor Dave would say (and yeah, since he’s Pop’s and the missus’ pastor that makes him mine, too) I love Christmas! This here is a story that Pop shared from a sermon our previous pastor, Dr. Robert Mills, told a few years ago. I don’t know if it’s true or not but it sure is a touching story. Here’s how it goes . . .
The pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn, arrived in early October excited about their opportunities. When they saw their church it was very run down and need much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve. They worked hard repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc., and on December 18th were ahead of schedule and just about finished. Then, on December 19th, a terrible driving rainstorm hit the area and lasted for two days. On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church where his heart sank when he saw the roof had leaked causing a large area of plaster about twenty feet by eight feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit. He cleaned up the mess on the floor and headed home, dejected that postponing the Christmas Eve service was imminent. On his way, he noticed that a business was having a flea market style sale for charity so he stopped in. Among the items he saw was a beautiful, handmade, ivory-colored, crocheted table cloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover up that hole in the wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.
By this time it had started to snow. In front of the church the pastor happened to notice as an elderly woman ran to catch her bus but missed it. So he invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus. She sat in a pew and paid little attention as the pastor put the tablecloth on the sanctuary wall as a tapestry, covering the large hole. As the pastor admired how beautiful it looked, he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle with her face as white as a sheet. “Pastor”, she asked, “Where did you get that tablecloth?” The pastor explained. Then she asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials EBG were crocheted there. They were. These were her initials that she had applied having made the tablecloth 35 years before in Austria. The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told her how he had just purchased the tablecloth.
She explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria. When the Nazis came, though, they were forced to leave. She left first, with her husband to follow the next week. But he was captured, sent to prison and she never saw her husband or her home again.
The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth but she insisted that he keep it for the church. The least he could do, he said, was to drive her home even though she lived on the other side of Staten Island.
What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve. The church was nearly full and the music and spirit were great. At the end of the service the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said they would return. An older man continued to sit in one of the pews and just stare and the pastor wondered what he might be contemplating. So the pastor went over to sit next to the man who asked where he had gotten the tapestry. He said it looked just like the one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war and he was amazed that the pastor had found one that was identical. He told the pastor of how the Nazis came, he was imprisoned and that he had never seen his wife again.
The pastor asked the man if he would allow him to take him for a short drive. And they drove to the same building where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier. He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman’s apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.
It’s said that the Lord works in mysterious ways but this here is one heckuva story. I just can’t imagine being lost from Pop and the missus like this but I do know one thing. Even if I ever do get separated from them, I’m eventually gonna be reunited with ‘em for eternity. And that, folks, is the real Christmas story.