by Pastor Tim Burt
The Tablecloth (Author Unknown)
The brand new pastor and his wife were newly assigned to reopen this old and aged church. It was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve.
They worked hard cleaning, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, and more. They were making wonderful progress when a terrible rainstorm hit the area. When the rain ended, the pastor's heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked and caused a very large area of plaster to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit. It would be visible to all. There wasn't time to fix it before the opening Christmas Eve service the next day. The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor and with disappointment in his heart, headed home.
On his way home, he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity, so he stopped in. One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, ornately stitched tablecloth with exquisite work and beautiful colors. The thought hit him. It was just the right size to cover up the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.
By this time, it had started to snow. As he was approaching the church he noticed an older woman waiting for a bus. He knew there was no bus coming for 45 minutes and encouraged her to wait in the warm church. She was grateful. She sat in a pew while he got out a ladder and some equipment to see if this beautiful tapestry could redeem the ugly hole in the wall. When he finished putting it up, he could hardly believe how beautiful it looked! And it covered up the entire problem area.
Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was like a sheet. "Reverend," she asked. "Where did you get that tapestry?"and immediately the woman requested that he check the lower right corner to see if the initials EBG were stitched into it there. They were. These were the initials of the woman. She had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria.
The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he had just gotten the tablecloth. The woman explained that before the war, she and her husband lived in Austria. When the Nazis came in, her husband made her leave planning to follow her the next week. He never made it out of the country and was imprisoned. She was told he was dead and never saw her husband or her home again. The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth, but she made the pastor keep it for the church. The pastor insisted on driving her home. That was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of the city and was only there for an appointment.
What a wonderful Christmas Eve service they had. Many from the neighborhood came out. The Christmas songs and hymns and the Pastor's words of the humble birth of the Christ child and the humble rebirth of the church, touched everyone's heart. The Christmas spirit was warm in the hearts of all. At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife thanked each person at the door for attending and many said that they would return.
One older man, a man whom the pastor hired to do some painting and came to the service at the pastor's request, continued to sit in one of the pews and stare. The pastor wondered why he wasn't leaving. The man asked him where he got the hanging on the front wall because it was identical to a tablecloth that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war. "How could there be two so much alike?" He told the pastor how when the Nazis came, he forced his wife to flee the country for her safety. His plan was to follow her a week later, but he was arrested and put in a camp. He never saw his wife or his home again. The pastor asked if he would allow him to take him for a little ride as he answered his question about the tablecloth.
The Pastor and his wife, drove him and to the same house where he 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 was truly a Christmas miracle.
Joel 2:25-26 (ESV) "I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten..." "You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame."
Note to the readers: This story has taken on many versions - one of which I have posted for you today. The author is unknown although I've been told that the original author, who has passed away, is Reverend Howard Schade.
In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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