Her Majesty The Queen’s death shocked all but those most “in the know at Balmoral”. Signs of her increasing frailty were more evident but almost all viewed her as indestructible as a ball bearing. She had always been a constant in all our lives. Surely death would visit her door — but on another day. Sadly, that “other” day came on 8 September.
Like most under the age of seventy, the moment we learned of her death will be forever etched in our memories. Those older would similarly remember the death of her beloved father, George VI or even the announcement of VE Day. On each occasion, for a few moments, time stood still as the new reality set in. VE Day was met with joy. The others, like the news about Her Majesty, met with sadness.
For the better part of two weeks, HM The Queen Elizabeth has dominated the news in ways seldom seen. Front and centre of that news were the oft quoted statements of her quiet, yet firm Christian faith. Baptised as Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary of the House of Windsor, she was no poseur. She was the genuine article. She believed the promises from the Book of Common Prayer her parents made for her at her baptism then owned them for herself at confirmation and again at her coronation. One of her godparents was Prince Arthur Duke of Connaught, third son of Queen Victoria.
In her first speech to the Commonwealth at the tender age of twenty-one, she said, “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” Seldom has anyone in public life functioned with such intentional consistency.
Indeed her consistency has prompted a movement for Parliament to declare her, Elizabeth the Faithful. That seems a right and honourable thing to do.
What really set our late Queen apart from others was her closely held and deeply informed Christian faith. One Prime Minister and his government were famous for not “doing God”. Her majesty was the opposite. She was not shy or ineloquent in “doing God”.
The hymns and readings she chose for her funeral service proved that without question.
That said, perhaps as clear a personal statement as she ever made, she made on Christmas Day 2011.
She said, “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.
”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.
“In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, there’s a prayer:
O Holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us we pray
Cast out our sin
And enter in
Be born in us today
“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.”