The new pastor was assigned to reopen a church in urban Brooklyn. It was run down and needed work, but he set a goal to have everything done in time for Christmas Eve.
After much hard work, the pastor went over to the church Dec. 21 to find the roof had leaked, which caused a large area of plaster to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary.
Sadly, he decided to cancel the Christmas Eve service. On the way home, he stopped at a flea market sale for charity. There he saw a beautiful, hand-made, crochet table cloth with fine colors and a cross embroidered right in the center. It was perfect to cover the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.
When he arrived, an older woman had just missed the bus, so he invited her into the church to wait for the next one as he hung the tablecloth. It was perfect and covered the unsightly hole.
Then, he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her eyes were wide as she asked, "Where did you get that tablecloth?" He explained, and the woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials EBG were crocheted there. They were. These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria.
The woman explained, before the war, she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria. When the Nazis came, she was captured, sent to prison and never saw her husband or her home again.
The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth; but she made him keep it for the church. He insisted on driving her home, which was the least he could do.
The Christmas Eve service was beautiful, and at the end of the service, an older man from the neighborhood continued to sit in one of the pews and stare. The man asked the pastor where he got the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to the one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war.
He told the pastor how the Nazis came and he and his wife were separated; that he never saw his wife or his home again for 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 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 saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.
People have many ideas of what Christmas is all about. There's the birth of Jesus, giving and receiving of gifts, family and friends, sumptuous feasts and some relaxation.
Christmas includes all of those things. But I'm convinced what Christmas is about is restoration. A marriage that had been broken some 35 years earlier was restored that night in New York.
Jesus came for the same reason — restoration. Back in the garden of Eden, sin separated man from God. Jesus came to restore that relationship. He was born in the most humble of circumstances, grew up and then touched other people's lives. He was then unjustly put to death. Why? Restoration.
1 John 4:9 & 10 says it this way: God has shown us his love by sending his only Son into the world so that we could have life through him. This is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the payment for our sins.
God wants nothing more for you and me than for us to be restored to a right relationship with Him. He paid the price for our sins. Our part is to ask for and receive His forgiveness.
Restoration. Yep, that's what Christmas is all about.
May you and your families have the most wonderful Christmas this year, and may restoration be your first priority this Christmas.