Roses in December
A. Ray Lee
The building was packed as the service began with the choir calling the congregation to worship. Former members and friends had come from far and near for Homecoming 2000 and to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the church. I sat spiritually and emotionally immersed as the videotape projected the service across the screen of an old VCR. Although the tape had lain untouched on a back shelf gathering dust for years, its viewing brought back powerful memories. Twenty-three years had passed but that day was as vivid in my mind as if it were yesterday.
As the service proceeded there was recognition of God’s blessings upon the church from the days following the Civil War to the present time. From its humble beginning in a forest of Cedar trees, Lebanon had a strong influence upon the development of the community. That influence had reached far beyond Falkville and Morgan County as young men and women had been sent out into Christian ministry. In my generation alone there had been seven individuals answering the call for full-time ministry.
It was a special day for me. I was completing many years of ministry including occasions as a supply preacher while a college student. I had been ordained as a seminary student in 1960 by the congregation to serve as a pastor. Over the years I had served a number of churches as pastor, interim pastor, and guest speaker. In all, I had spoken in over 50 Baptist Churches in Morgan County and several others of different denominations. In what I had supposed would be my final years in a formal ministry (which was not to be, but that is another story), I had been privileged to come back home to where my faith had its roots.
Like all who have lived beyond the promised three score and ten years, I have experienced good times and bad, highs and lows. Through the years I have faced many challenges in life and ministry. There have been great disappointments and heartaches along the way. At times I had wondered the worth of what I was doing. But there had also been victories.
My mother-in-law was the child of poor Irish parents. They died when she was a young child. She was fortunate to be taken in by a well-to-do couple who raised her as their own and provided everything she could want. Those were happy years for her. But things drastically changed during the Depression. The days of gayety and plenty became nothing but memories. As she thought of the past she often said, “God gave us memories that we might have roses in December.” The memory of the celebration service was a “Roses in December” moment for me.
The biblical psalms deal with all aspects that affect one’s life. David wrote of his lasting faith in Psalm 25:6 in which he remembered God’s love and mercy: “Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy loving kindness; for they have been ever of old.”