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A Christmas Love Story

“At Christmastime, when men and women everywhere gather in their churches to wonder anew at the greatest miracle the world has ever known, the story I like best to recall during the holiday season was not a miracle—well, not exactly. My story begins with a young pastor and his wife taking over a rundown church in an unknown river valley town.

One stormy December night, rain soaked through the church’s exterior and caused a chunk of wall plaster behind the alter to fall, leaving a ragged hole. “Thy will be done,” said the pastor. “Christmas is only two days away,” gasped his wife.

That afternoon, the dispirited couple attended an auction where a gold-and-ivory lace tablecloth was put on the block. It was a magnificent item, nearly 15 feet long. Suddenly the inspired pastor bid $6.50 and took it back to his church. He hung it over the hole in the wall and the extraordinary beauty of its shimmering handwork cast a fine holiday glow over the chancel. About noon on Christmas Eve, the pastor opened the church door and noticed a middle-aged woman at the bus stop. He knew the bus wasn’t due for 40 more minutes, so he invited her in, where it was warm. She lived in the city and had come to the village to interview for a governess job with a local family. Unfortunately, she didn’t get the position because of her imperfect English.

After offering a prayer in the chancel, the woman noticed the pastor straightening the tablecloth on the wall. She drew near in disbelief. “It is mine,” she said showing the
surprised pastor the monogrammed initials buried in its folds. “It is my banquet cloth.” The woman explained how her Viennese husband had the beautiful cloth made especially for her in Brussels. Life was good until the Nazis took over, and the day came when she let him put her on a train to safety. He was supposed to follow with their possessions, but he never came. She later learned he died in a concentration camp. She deeply regretted leaving him. “Perhaps all these years of wandering have been my punishment,” she lamented. The pastor tried to give her the cloth, but she refused and left the church.

During the Christmas Eve service, the tablecloth seemed to dance in the candlelight before the congregation. One man in particular, the middle aged village jeweler, couldn’t take his eyes off it. “It is strange,” he told the pastor after the service. “Many years ago my wife—God rest her—and I owned such a cloth. In our home in Vienna, my wife put it on the table only when the bishop came to dinner. The pastor told him of the woman’s visit earlier in the day. The man couldn’t believe his ears. “Can it be? Does she live?” Together they went to the local family to ask about the woman they interviewed, and later that night the two men drove to the city to try and find her home.

As Christmas Day was born, this man and his wife, who had been separated through so many saddened Yuletides, were reunited. It was a miracle of the Christmas season!”

I am certain many of you have read this story before. I didn’t write it; it has been around the Internet for years. Entitled
The Gold and Ivory Tablecloth, it was written by the Reverend Howard C. Schade. The Reverend Schade, a large broad-shouldered man with blond wavy hair and a booming voice, was pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church in Nyack from September 1951 to 1959. He passed away in 1989 after a distinguished career in Christian leadership. I spoke with Reverend Tom Danney, who recently retired as pastor of the Reformed Church. He told me the church receives numerous calls about the story—from a film company in Japan and from a woman in Florida who reads the story to very receptive audience at nursing homes during the Christmas Season.

Rev. Tom told me there are varying opinions about the truth of the story; however it was written by Rev. Schade while he pastored his flock at the Nyack Church.

Reverend Tom smiled when he told me the story offers a reminder that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.

I truly hope each of you will experience a miracle this Holiday Season

The Nyack Villager thanks Jim Leiner for helping us all ‘Remember the Days .’