I think of Christmas as a time of wonder. Do you?
A novice pastor was assigned the reopening of a rundown church. It needed lots of work, but along with a few helpers, he planned excitedly to begin services on Christmas Eve.
Working diligently, Dec. 18 arrived and everything was ready. However, a terrible two-day storm hit the area. On Dec. 21, the pastor discovered that the roof had leaked causing a large visible area of the plaster wall directly behind and above the pulpit to cave in leaving an unsightly gaping hole.
In despair, he headed home. On the way, he stopped at a flea market and noticed a large beautifully designed tablecloth with a cross embroidered in the center of it. He bought it and returned to the church.
At the church he invited a lady who had missed her bus to wait inside. Accepting the offer she watched as the pastor placed the tablecloth over the damaged wall, it fit perfectly and looked great. In dismay, the lady asked the pastor where he had obtained the tablecloth.
She said that she’d handcrafted it in Austria years ago. She explained that 35 years earlier the Nazis had come and she was forced to leave. She and her husband were to reunite later, but she was captured, sent to prison and she never saw her husband again. The pastor offered her the tablecloth, but she insisted that he keep it. He was equally insistent that he drive her home.
The church did open on Christmas Eve. The service was well attended and went smoothly. As the service dismissed, the pastor and his wife greeted people at the door. One elderly man, however, remained behind, staring intently at the tablecloth. The pastor asked him if he was alright. With a shaky voice, he said that the tablecloth was identical to one his wife had made in Austria. He explained how the Nazis had come, forcing his wife to flee. He was unable to reunite with her as he was arrested and imprisoned and though 35 years had elapsed, he’d never seen her again.
The pastor drove the man to the house where he had taken the woman three days earlier. He led the man to the woman’s apartment, knocked on the door and witnessed an incredible Christmas reunion.
If this story causes you to wonder, good. That’s exactly the mindset of those who witnessed Jesus’ birth. “…the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story wondered…” (Luke 2:17ff).
— Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church