Christmas Stories: The Gold and Ivory Tablecloth

A pastor’s impulsive purchase leads to an incredible reunion. Coincidence—or divine guidance? You be the judge in this story of a true Christmas miracle.

By Rev. Howard C. Schade
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine December 1954

from Reader's Digest Magazine

Christmas Stories: The Gold and Ivory Tablecloth
For the next few minutes, the woman and the pastor talked excitedly together. She explained that she was Viennese, that she and her husband had opposed the Nazis and decided to leave the country. They were advised to go separately. Her husband put her on a train for Switzerland. They planned that he would join her as soon as he could arrange to ship their household goods across the border.

She never saw him again. Later she heard that he had died in a concentration camp.

“I have always felt that it was my fault—to leave without him,” she said. “Perhaps these years of wandering have been my punishment!”

The pastor tried to comfort her, urged her to take the cloth with her. She refused. Then she went away.

As the church began to fill on Christmas Eve, it was clear that the cloth was going to be a great success. It had been skillfully designed to look its best by candlelight.

After the service, the pastor stood at the doorway; many people told him that the church looked beautiful. One gentle-faced, middle-aged man—he was the local clock-and-watch repairman—looked rather puzzled.

“It is strange,” he said in his soft accent. “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”—and here he smiled—“only when the bishop came to dinner!”

The pastor suddenly became very excited. He told the jeweler about the woman who had been in church earlier in the day.

The startled jeweler clutched the pastor’s arm. “Can it be? Does she live?”

Together the two got in touch with the family who had interviewed her. Then, in the pastor’s car, they started for the city. And as Christmas Day was born, this man and his wife—who had been separated through so many saddened Yuletides—were reunited.

To all who heard this story, the joyful purpose of the storm that had knocked a hole in the wall of the church was now quite clear. Of course, people said it was a miracle, but I think you will agree it was the season for it!

“The Gold & Ivory Tablecloth” is one of 38 uplifting tales in the Reader’s Digest Treasury of Joy and Inspiration. This collector’s item features editors’ selections of our most powerful true stories, miracles, and dramas in real life, including works by Christopher Reeve, James Michener, and Billy Crystal. To learn more or buy a copy, go to readersdigest.com/joy.

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  • Your Comments

    • EldenandMary

      We first saw this story at the Stained Glass Theater in Springfield, MO maybe ten years ago.  A Christian theater, and well done.  I took my now 23 year old grandson to see it when he could not have been more than 12.  He too was touched by the story.

      We have since moved to Illinois.  The same grandson lived with us for 3 years as an adult.  You never forget a story like this one.

    • Marnilevin18

      “The Gold and Ivory Tablecloth” was a truly inspiring story. However, I read a different version. The elderly couple was also from Vienna, but Jewish. Their families had been killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust.  Thinking that the other was dead, they separately made their way to the U.S. After they each saw the tablecloth hanging up in a small synagogue in New York,  they were finally reunited by the young rabbi of the congregation.

    • Marnilevin18

      “The Gold and Ivory Tablecloth” was a truly inspiring story. However, I read a different version. The elderly couple was also from Vienna, but Jewish. Their families had been killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust.  Thinking that the other was dead, they separately made their way to the U.S. After they each saw the tablecloth hanging up in a small synagogue in New York,  they were finally reunited by the young rabbi of the congregation.