Every year the Queen records a Christmas message for those of us in the British Commonwealth. I think the idea of a Queen and the Commonwealth are somewhat anachronistic and I usually don’t watch the Queen’s message when it comes on at the end of the ABC 7:00 pm Christmas Day TV News. But I saw it this year – and it was worth seeing.
For those not familiar with these things, the Queen of England (Elizabeth II) is also Queen of Australia and Head of the Church of England. She has almost no real power, but serves as Head of State, a largely ceremonial office. She is well respected and admired. And her short Christmas message each year is generally a pleasant and safe message of hope and encouragement.
The 2011 message
This year was no exception. But she finished with these words about the meaning of Christmas:
Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices. “Fear not!” they urged, “We bring you tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a saviour who is Christ the Lord.”
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 philosopher or 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.
I believe this section of the Queen’s message is worth noting. She has presented a brief summary of the good news about Jesus without cliche and without beating people over the head that they are sinners. Instead, in a positive and gentle manner, she has encouraged people to recognise the love of God, accept his forgiveness and offer that forgiveness to others.
Many of us christians could learn from her approach.
You can watch the 2011 Queen’s Christmas message here.