The Christmas Tablecloth

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This story was written by Rev. Howard C. Schade, pastor of the First Reformed Church in Nyack, New York. By the time the story was anthologized in Alice Gray’s Christmas Stories for the Heart in 1998, Rev. Schade already had passed away in 1989 and could not be contacted to verify the details of the story, which is why Snopes calls this story a “legend.”
I choose to believe in the reverend!
H/t beloved fellow Doc’s Wife.
~Eowyn

The Gold and Ivory Tablecloth

By Rev. Howard C. Schade
The brand new 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 needed 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 18 were ahead of schedule and just about finished. On December 19, a terrible tempest — a driving rainstorm — hit the area and lasted for two days.
On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high.
T he pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor and, not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home. 
 
On the way 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, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a Cross embroidered right in the center. 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. An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus. She missed it. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later.
She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder, hangers, etc., to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. The pastor 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….
“Pastor,” she asked, “where did you get that tablecloth?”
The pastor explained. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials EBG were crocheted into it there.
They were. These were the initials of the woman, and 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 were well-to-do people in Austria. When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week. She was captured, sent to prison and never saw her husband or her home again.
T he 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 Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a housecleaning job.
W hat a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve. The church was almost full. The music and the spirit were great. At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return.
One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the pastor wondered why he wasn’t leaving.
The man asked him where he got the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike. He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested and put in a prison. He never saw his wife or his home again all the 35 years in between.
The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride. They drove to Staten Island and to the same house 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.

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0 responses to “The Christmas Tablecloth

  1. Definitely a Christmas story to warm the heart. Thanks for sharing it, Doc’s wife and Eowyn.

     
  2. I believe that it is a true story. It is one I’ve read frequently in the past few years. It demonstrates the power of faith and the power of God. It is not a coincidence, it is the intervention of God.

     
  3. Most lovely story!

     
  4. This is a wonderful story of hope which I will share with our family this Christmas Eve, before we embark on our traditional Christmas eve fish dinner.

     
  5. Much like O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi,” this is a story with a lot of emotional pull. And — like “Gift of the Magi” — it is a fictional short story. It has become somewhat of a Christmas meme and is sometimes represented as being a true event, a claim never made by its author, Howard C. Schade.
    Exhaustive attempts have been made to find the fabled tablecloth, the couple, and the church in Brooklyn where the tablecloth was displayed…even congregrants from that church that might have remembered the event. All to no avail. Like “Gift of the Magi,” the story unfolded only in the imagination of its author.

     
    • Lux,
      You must have trouble with reading comprehension, for you managed to miss the introductory paragraph I wrote to the story:

      This story was written by Rev. Howard C. Schade, pastor of the First Reformed Church in Nyack, New York. By the time the story was anthologized in Alice Gray’s Christmas Stories for the Heart in 1998, Rev. Schade already had passed away in 1989 and could not be contacted to verify the details of the story, which is why Snopes calls this story a “legend.”

       

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