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A Miraculous Story for a Miraculous Season

Christmas is all about miracle and mystery, and wrapped up in the miracle and mystery is the gift of Providence. God’s providences in our daily lives are fulfilled in many ways.

One of my favorite stories of the miracle of providence is about a pastor who was sent to reopen a brokendown church in Brooklyn.

He arrived in October and invested enormous energy into preparing for his first service on Christmas Eve. Shortly before Christmas, a heavy rain caused so much damage to the church building as to create a tremendous hole in the wall behind the altar. The pastor wondered if he should postpone the Christmas Eve service. With a heavy heart, he headed home.

On the way, he stopped at a flea market and purchased a handmade, exquisitely crocheted ivory tablecloth with an embroidered cross in its center. With some excitement, he realized it was just the right size to cover the hole in the sanctuary. Instead of going home, he returned to the church.

By this time it had started to snow. An older woman running from the opposite direction was hurrying toward the bus stop. But the bus pulled away without her, so the pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus. Resting in a back pew, she paid little attention to the pastor as he climbed a ladder to drape the tablecloth across the gaping hole. The pastor reveled in the tablecloth’s loveliness.

Then he noticed the woman walking toward him. Her face was ashen. “Pastor,” she said breathlessly, “where did you get that tablecloth?” She asked him to look at the lower right corner. The initials EBG were crocheted there, the woman’s own initials. She had made the cloth 35 years earlier.

Before the war she and her husband were well-to-do citizens of Austria. When the Nazis came, her husband forced her to leave, promising to follow as soon as possible. She was soon captured and imprisoned, never again to see husband or home.

The pastor offered the tablecloth to her but she insisted he keep it for the church. He drove her to her home on the other side of Staten Island. The woman had only gone to Brooklyn that one day for a housecleaning job. It had to be a miracle.

That Christmas Eve the church filled. The cloth shimmered in the candlelight on the altar. Following the benediction, the pastor greeted everyone at the door. Then he noticed one older man still sitting in a pew, gazing at the altar. The minister recognized him as a neighbor. The gentleman asked where he found the tablecloth. It looked identical to one his wife made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war. “How could there be two tablecloths so much alike?” he asked.

With rising excitement, the pastor asked if the man would accompany him on a ride. Driving to Staten Island, he pulled up to the house where he took the woman just three days earlier. He helped the old man climb the stairs to the woman’s apartment and knocked on the door. Then he witnessed an unimaginable reunion: one more Christmas miracle of God’s magnificent providence.

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