The tale of a tablecloth
Rev. Howard Shade published a true story in Reader’s Digest many years ago that bears repeating. A young pastor was ministering in a very old church that had become dilapidated. A late December windstorm blew out a large piece of plaster behind the altar. With only two days before the Christmas service there wasn’t any time for repair. That afternoon he and his wife attended a flea market where they purchased a 15 foot gold and ivory tablecloth. It was only $6.50 and they had hopes to hide the hole.
The next day, Christmas Eve, the pastor came in for preparations at noon and saw an older woman outside waiting for the bus. She told him she was on her way to an interview to be a governess with a well-established family that lived near their town. Knowing she would have a forty minute wait he offered her refuge in the church.
As he was hanging the tablecloth her eyes grew wide with amazement. She quickly came forward, reached for the corner where she stared at her own monogrammed initials. She explained to the pastor how she and her husband had lived in Vienna, and had fled before the Nazi invasion. Thinking it best to separate, she had left by train to Switzerland. He was to follow after he had arranged shipping for their household goods. Her husband never made it. She had received word much later that he had died in a concentration camp
The following day the Christmas service was beautiful — enhanced with the gold and ivory tablecloth lit by candlelight. Afterwards one man lingered, a local who repaired watches. He kept staring at the tablecloth, and explained to the pastor that he had owned one that looked exactly like it back in Vienna. He went on to say how he had sent his wife off and then had been imprisoned, and had not seen her for 35 years.
The pastor shared with him the chance meeting he had the prior day and together they looked up the family in town who interviewed the woman and obtained her address. They drove into the city and located her. What a joyous reunion they had after so many years!
Our God still works in mysterious ways. But His mystery is often contingent on our own kindness. Can you imagine the joy that would have been lost had the gracious pastor been too busy to take the time to extend an offer of kindness to the woman.
This Christmas let us remember that God went out of his way to extend His great love, from the glory of heaven to a barn here on earth.
“For His merciful kindness is great toward us.” Psalm 117:2a”