Over the last 10 years the Queen has been increasingly open about her Christian faith in her Christmas Day message. This quote particularly struck me from her speech this year:
“The teachings of Christ have served as my inner light.”
Whatever your views on the Royal family, I think everyone can learn from the way that the Queen speaks about her faith. These are my four reasons:
1) She speaks personally
“For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life.” (2014)
“It is my prayer this Christmas Day that Jesus’ example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others.” (2012)
No one has a more public role than the Queen, but she is markedly personal in the way she talks about her faith. She continually uses words like ‘for me’; ‘my life’ and ‘my prayer’. Like all personal testimony, this is powerful and induces respect in those listening.
It is in contrast to politicians and others who hedge their bets and share bland platitudes about ‘Christian values’.
2) She focuses on the person of Jesus
“For Christians, Jesus is ‘the light of the world” (2020)
“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.” (2012)
“God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general…but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.” (2011)
It would be easy for someone in her position to offer a anodyne message about thinking of others and being kind. But the Queen is unabashed about talking directly about the person at the heart of the whole Christmas celebration.
And she doesn’t just mention the ‘J’ word – she talks about both the example and achievement of Jesus. In doing so she is sharing orthodox and accessible theology to the widest possible audience.
3) She speaks inclusively
“The Christmas message shows us that this love is for everyone. There is no one beyond its reach.” (2013)
“Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people, of whatever faith or none.” (2014)
Obviously the Queen is Head of State for a very diverse group of people. This year she spoke about the Hindu celebrate of light at Diwali and how the pandemic has affected all religions.
And consistently, the Queen emphasises that God’s love is for all people and that believing in this love should drive us to respect and value everyone, whatever they believe. It is the opposite to the kind of faith which seeks to silence and destroy those who are different.
This inclusivity resonated with my own experience of meeting the Queen in 1997, when she came to open a hostel for homeless people where I was manager. I introduced her to all the residents and we spent half an hour together. I had expected it be formal and awkward but she was incredibly adept at talking to such a diverse range of people.
4) She speaks about faith in action
“Let the light of Christmas — the spirit of selflessness, love and above all hope — guide us in the times ahead.” (2020)
“Reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people.” (2013)
“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.” (2011)
Anyone speaking effectively about faith today cannot do so by just speaking about abstract beliefs – they need to make the connection to what faith does. This is why the church’s work in running food banks and night shelters is such a good illustration of what faith is about.
The Queen refers to the reconciliation, service and love which flows from Christian commitment. It emphasises that faith must make a difference to how we live – it must be a force which helps us become ‘better people’.
Clarity and confidence
Many people have misgivings about the opulence and inherited privilege bound up with the Royal Family. But many Royal-sceptics also have respect for the way the Queen conducts herself.
And what I most admire about the Queen is her on-going willingness to express her faith with such clarity and confidence in the public sphere. Too few Christians, (however loud or confident they are within church-settings) have the courage, imagination or depth of conviction to do this.
In speaking personally, focussing on Jesus, being inclusive and connecting faith to action, I think this 94 year old offers a great model for how Christians should speak about what they believe.
Maybe I’ll ask her to do a guest blog post…