The brand new pastor was newly assigned to his first ministry. He was to reopen a church in a run-down part of the big city. He and his housekeeper arrived in late Autumn excited about their opportunities.
When they saw their church, it was very neglected and needed much work. They resolved to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve.
They and some volunteers from the parish worked hard, refinishing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc. A week before Christmas they were ahead of schedule and just about finished. The next day a terrible tempest with a driving rainstorm hit the city and lasted for several days.
The next day, the morning before Christmas Eve, the pastor went over to the church. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high and going up several feet toward the raftered ceiling above.
The pastor cleaned up the sopping mess from the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home. On the way he noticed that a local business was having a rummage sale for charity, and he stopped there.
One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, dark, finely embroidered tapestry with exquisite workings. It was black as night, but in refulgent, glowing colors a Star was embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover the hole in the sanctuary wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.
By this time it had started to snow. An elderly woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus, calling weakly in vain as the bus drove off noisily. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus, which would be along in an hour or so.
She sat in a pew with bowed head, paying scant attention to the pastor working in the front of the church. He got a ladder, hangers, hammer and tacks, to hang wall tapestry. The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire damaged area.
Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was like ashen.
“Pastor,” she asked, “where did you get that tapestry?”
The pastor explained where he had bought the wall hanging. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials CD were embroidered there. They were.
These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tapestry forty-five years before, in the old country, where she had lived at that time.
The woman haltingly related that before the war, she lived in a fine house. Her husband had been a well-to-do shop owner. When the War came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her as soon as he had sold the house and put their affairs in order.
She left for the New World, and waited, but no answers came in reply to her frantic letters. She could find no trace of him, even after the war, though she contacted every agency and government, to no avail.
She worked in the big city, but she had been poor and sickly, as well as heart-sick and lonely, these 35 years. She had never seen her husband or her home again. She told the pastor she prayed nightly, these forty-some years later, that her husband had survived the war.
She wished more than anything, that he had found another love and had lived out his life happy and healthy. When she thought of him, she imagined him well and surrounded by love, and that comforted her.
The pastor wanted to give her the tapestry, but weeping, she begged him keep it for the church. The good man insisted on driving her home, that was the least he could do.
She lived in the poorest outskirts of the city, and was only in town for the day for a housecleaning job. She tearfully thanked the man for the ride and painfully limped up the front stoop to the ruined tenement building.
He watched her into the door, then drove back to the church, lost in his thoughts about that poor woman and her melancholy history.
The next day dawned bright with snow. The pastor and his housekeeper hurried to finish decorating the church before the crowd arrived.
What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve! The church was almost full. The music and the spirit of God filled the rest. At the end of the service, the pastor and his housekeeper met every departing worshiper at the door, and many said that they would return.
One bent old man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood, continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, crutches in hand, open-mouthed, at the tapestry hanging from the rafters and tacked to the wall.
The pastor went to the man.
“The service is over Father, can I help you in any way?”
The old man’s high voice quavered quietly: “Father, where did you get that tapestry?”
After the pastor related the story of how he came by the tapestry, the old man told him that it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in the old country before the war. How could there be two such works so much alike?
He told the pastor how the war came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety, and how he was supposed to follow her as soon as he was able.
But he was arrested, forced to join the army, and when the war ended he was far from home, penniless, injured and ill. He had lost all his letters and belongings, so he had no information with which to contact his wife. Their home and store were destroyed, and he was penniless.
He had no idea where to search for his wife. He sent letters to agencies and officials, but no one could tell him any news of his wife. He knew she was in the New World, and had been in this very city when last he heard from her. He had saved for years, and finally arrived, only to search in vain for any trace of his beloved. It was thirty years since he’d left the old country, now.
He only prayed that she had made a new life in this new country, and had lived a happy life without him. He hoped she’d met someone who would be kind to her, and provide her with a good life, children, a home and security. He still loved her after all these years and his only hope was that she had not suffered because he had failed her. His only consolation was imagining she was content and safe.
The pastor held the crippled old man as he sobbed in the pastor’s arms. The pastor was shocked at the story. Could the woman from the night before be his old man’s long lost wife? The pastor was afraid to raise the old man’s hopes, so he said nothing, but asked the old man to come with him.
The old man was reluctant, but upon being pressed, he admitted he had nowhere to go for Christmas. The pastor insisted he ride with him, and the later spend Christmas with he and his housekeeper as they had Christmas dinner. But first they must make a stop outside the city.
They drove to the building where the pastor had dropped the old woman the night before. He helped the weak old man with his poor, painfully twisted legs, withered by that long ago injury during the war, climb the three flights of stairs to the woman’s apartment.
The pastor knocked on the door and they two stood waiting as they heard footsteps coming to the door. The old man was confused and anxious, for the pastor had told him nothing. The pastor secretly waited for the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.
The woman and the man were both overwhelmed with the emotion at seeing each other after all those years. It was a bittersweet meeting, as they both could not help regretting the lost years, the children they would never have, the life they could have had together. Now he a poor pensioner, and her, in her 70’s, working as a housekeeper to make ends meet.
Finally, the pastor left them. They wanted to be alone together. He closed the door quietly behind him.
There was so much to say, they only held each other silently throughout the long, cold Christmas Eve in her little attic room. The next morning, as Christmas dawned, they decided to go back to the church to thank the pastor for bringing them together.
The church was dark and cold in the gray winter morn. The woman looked at the tapastry, a symbol of their former wealth, their youth, the wonderful times they had together, now gone forever. Then she had an idea. She talked it over with the old man and he agreed.
An awesome sight greeted the earliest visitors to the church Christmas morning. They drew back looking on in wonder as the pastor approached. Parishioners parted before him and revealed the little old man and woman, hanging from the rafters, dangling by the neck from strips of their beautiful tapestry.
The broken-hearted pastor reached out to touch the woman, hoping against hope she still lived and could be revived.
That’s when the sharpened candle-stick the old man had rigged swung down from the rafters and impaled the pastor, piercing his aorta, blood fountaining out of the pastor’s chest.
He staggered backward, pulling the four-foot candlestick, and the length of tapestry from which it hung. The strip was still attached to the main tapestry, yanking the star upside-down.
The stunned and fatally wounded pastor soundlessly screamed as he saw the shining gold pentagram, now wet with blood, tear loose from the wall and wracked the hooks above.
The storm had dislodged the rafter to which it was connected, and it fell from its precarious balance, the entire church roof caving in on the congregation, killing most of them outright, and leaving the rest horribly maimed and dying.
The the old man and woman stirred, opened their brightly shining eyes, and seemed to come alive. They stepped back onto the alter and untied the make-shift nooses from around their necks.
Then they waded in among the dead and dying and began to feast. For forty years and more they had aged, each unable and unwilling to revive without the other. Now that the pastor had reunited them, they had found that inner spark and contrived their plan.
The dying pastor watched in horror as the two old vampires grew young and whole again before his eyes as they gorged on their bloody Yuletide feast.
It was the best Christmas they’d had in centuries.
(based on a true Christmas Story)