Our country, the Commonwealth and the World grieves for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The tributes we have heard and read over these past few days have rightly focused on her extraordinary dedication to duty and service, her steadfastness, her dignity, her diligence, her love for people and her role as peacemaker. However, there has been much less focus on where the inspiration for all these marks of her life came from. The Queen herself made it very clear throughout her lifetime that the inspiration and anchor for her life was the person of Jesus Christ. For example, in her Christmas message of 2014, she said: “For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and anchor in my life”. As Christians, this changes the way we grieve for our Queen.
First, it means that we do not grieve as those who have no hope. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonian Church: “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (1 Thess 4:13-14). The Queen trusted in the one who declared himself to be the resurrection and the life, who promised that same resurrection life to all who trust in him and proved this promise was true by his own resurrection. Even as we mourn her death, we can know that she is now at peace with her risen Saviour, and we are reminded that this is the true and unchanging Christian hope.
Second, it means we can thank God for her life of public Christian witness. The Queen was arguably the most famous person in the world and yet unlike other famous people, we knew next to nothing about her views on politics and many other subjects. But she made her beliefs about Jesus Christ abundantly clear, and she did so in a gracious way. For example, in her Christmas message of 2011, she spoke of Jesus Christ as the unique Saviour in whom we can find the forgiveness of God: “Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are) – but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.”
But at the same time her approach “was testimonial, not argumentative. She told the world the inspiration that Jesus had been in her own life and left the world to decide if they were interested in being inspired themselves” (Mark Greene, LICC), ending her address that year with the heartfelt invitation: “It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.”
She also bore witness to how the forgiveness of Christ can empower us to forgive one another and heal the divisions in our society. In our contemporary society there is a great deal of judgement but very little forgiveness. The Queen consistently pointed to Jesus Christ as the source and the inspiration of our forgiveness for one another: “Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships, and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.” (Christmas Message 2011)
Third, it means we can take inspiration from her life of Christian service. “Life of service” is perhaps the phrase most used to describe the life of the Queen and again in her Christmas messages over the years she made clear that she gained the strength to serve from her conviction that Christ had first served her. In 2012 she said: “This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son “to serve, not to be served”. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ.” She was referencing Mark 10:45, where Jesus declares the heart of his mission: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” To seek to serve other people is not a uniquely Christian concept, but in her words and in her life, the Queen pointed us to the unique power of Jesus Christ to inspire the Christian’s life of service. Because the God of the universe has already served us by dying for us and giving us the most precious gift we can ever possess, his forgiveness, we are empowered to go out to love and serve others.
Thanks be to God for the faith, service and example of his servant, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and let us pray to God to comfort and bless King Charles III, the royal family, our nation, Commonwealth and the World with the same hope of Christ in whom she trusted.
For further reading see resources from LICC.