A Christmas Surprise

his Christmas, I thought you would enjoy “hearing” a story from my dad. We found this in his undated Christmas sermon notebook and have edited it here for you. It’s a great way to complete our celebration of LOGOI’s 50th Anniversary.

This is great to read out loud with your loved ones this Christmas season. It happened around 1975, 30 years after the end of WWII.

From the Christmas sermon notes of Rev. Les Thompson*:

The brand new pastor and his wife arrived early in October to their new assignment in Brooklyn. When they opened the doors to see their “new” church, their hearts sank a bit finding it very run down and in need of much work.

They set a goal to have the church cleaned up, repaired, and ready to have their first service on Christmas Eve. They worked hard repairing pews, plastering walls, painting and cleaning to get everything ready. They also canvased the neighborhood announcing their Christmas Eve service plans.

Christmas Eve was now just around the corner and they were thrilled that everything would be ready. Then, a terrible storm hit Brooklyn which lasted for days. When the pastor went over to see how his church fared, his heart sank. The roof had leaked causing a large area of plaster to fall off the front wall just behind the pulpit. The ugly hole and mess was about six feet by eight feet around. There wasn’t time to repair the walls and he wondered what to do as he headed home to tell his wife.

On his way he noticed a local business was having a flea market sale. He thought, “Maybe there is something I can find to cover up the ugly hole in the wall.” Sure enough, one of the items for sale was a beautiful tablecloth large enough to cover the hole. The pastor was excited with his find and even more surprised to see the very fine work on the handmade cloth, including a cross embroidered right in the center. It was perfect. He bought it and headed back to the church.

There was a bus stop on the corner where his church was located and he couldn’t help but notice an elderly woman trying to catch a bus. She missed it. A light snow had started to fall as the elderly woman looked around for shelter. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church while she waited for the next bus. She gratefully accepted. 

As she waited, the pastor decided to get a ladder and began to hang the tablecloth in front of the ugly hole in the wall. When he finished, he stepped back to look it over and could hardly believe how beautiful it looked. It was as if it were made just for that church and location. 

He then noticed the elderly woman slowly walking down the center aisle toward him. Her face was white as a sheet.

“Where did you get that tablecloth?” she asked in amazement. The pastor told her all that had just happened but her eyes never wavered from the tablecloth. Finally, she asked if he would please check the lower right corner to see if the initials EBG were there. 

“I made this tablecloth 35 years ago in Austria” she wept. “When the Nazis came, my husband and I were forced to leave everything and sent to prison. We were separated. I never saw my husband again.”

The pastor could hardly believe it. As he thought about the rainstorm, the hole in the wall, and how he came across both the tablecloth and the woman who made it, it all seemed impossible.

He immediately went to take the tablecloth down and give it to her, but she insisted it remain right where it now stood. The pastor insisted on driving the elderly woman home. It was the least he could do.

Christmas Eve arrived and what a wonderful service they had. The church was almost full, the music was great, and a sense of God’s presence profound. The service ended, the pastor shook many hands, and everyone filtered out the door back home… except for one elderly man. He just sat there, transfixed on the tablecloth.

“Pastor,” he said softly with his voice quivering, “where did you get that tablecloth?” The pastor’s jaw dropped. “Could this be?” he asked himself. Before he could say anything, the elderly man began to speak. “My wife made a tablecloth exactly like that one when we lived in Austria. She put her initials in the corner. We were taken by the Nazis. I was sent to a concentration camp. I never saw her again.” There was a long pause as his eyes filled with tears. “Could there be two tablecloths exactly alike?”

The pastor quietly thanked the Lord for bringing him to Brooklyn. He thanked the Lord for the rainstorm that caused the plaster to fall off the wall. He thanked the Lord for leading him to a flea market where he bought a tablecloth. He thanked the Lord for an elderly woman who missed her bus.

“My friend,” the pastor said to the elderly man, “may I take you for a little ride in my car? There is something you need to know about this tablecloth.” 

They drove to Staten Island directly to the little apartment where the pastor had taken the elderly woman just three days earlier. He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs, knocked on the door and witnessed the greatest Christmas reunion one could ever imagine.

We often have no idea why certain things happen in our lives. Oftentimes, they make absolutely no sense — like an ugly hole in the wall — even at Christmas. May He grant us the grace to truly know that “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

And a final P.S. from Dad:

P.S.  At that first Christmas, it was not a beautiful tablecloth, but a lowly stable with a beautiful baby lying in a manger.  That baby came for you! God became a man to reunite you, separated by sin, to the Father. That’s what Christmas is all about.

Now, will you say a prayer for the many thousands of pastors and leaders who are part of LOGOI’s family? They will read, study and use sermon examples like the one you just read as they proclaim the Good News that “The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem” (Luke 2:11).

 from Ed and LOGOI