‘In the birth of a child, there is a new dawn with endless potential’
The first colour movie I ever saw was put on as a special showing by my primary school in class time. It was of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second, and so her reign has pretty much paralleled my own life. She was an ever present, taken much for granted as she was always there, a figure who, though never getting involved in politics, was a symbol of stability, a constant symbol of the enduring nature of the nation, in wars and times of peace, in prosperity and in struggle.
That taken-for-granted-ness ended abruptly on Thursday the 8th of September when she died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, and that symbol of stability and endurance died with her.
A weekend newspaper emblazoned its front page with the headline ‘Elizabeth the Great’. That seems appropriate. However, her ‘greatness’ didn’t lie in wielding some political power like Winston Churchill, or founding great institutions like her Great, Great, Great Grandfather Albert. No, her greatness lay in a single word, a trait referenced by Martin Luther-King Junior in his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech, a trait that our society has largely lost – that of Character.
It was her Character, not power, that enabled her to be a great influence on others; that brought her such respect, as witnessed by the thousands of tributes from nations all around the world, that is the reason for such outpouring of grief.
So, what were the marks of that Character? One newspaper columnist wrote that they were-
‘Duty, Honour, Sacrifice, Service, Selflessness, Stoicism, Work ethic, Resilience, and Steadfastness’.
To which list I would add Bravery, the bravery she and her family showed amidst the bombs falling on London in World War Two; a time when she also joined the army; a time when a ‘Trigger warning’ did not carry its current meaning of an alert to some potential offence to the current hyper-sensitive generation lacking in resilience. No, a ‘Trigger warning’ to the Queen was the sound of an air-raid siren and of enemy bombs falling around her.
It is indeed true that the above traits were aspects of the Queen’s Character which she fully demonstrated over decades, but they were not the source of it. If we want to know the source
we need only to go and listen to one of her Christmas addresses which she made every year to the British nation and the Commonwealth of nations of which she was the symbolic head. Particularly those of recent years. This is some of the closing part of the 2021 address-
“for me and my family, even with one familiar laugh missing this year (Prince Philip), there will be joy in Christmas, as we have the chance to reminisce, and see anew the wonder of the festive season through the eyes of our young children . . . .
They teach us all a lesson – just as the Christmas story does – that in the birth of a child, there is a new dawn with endless potential.
It is this simplicity of the Christmas story that makes it so universally appealing, simple happenings that formed the starting point of the life of Jesus — a man whose teachings have been handed down from generation to generation, and have been the bedrock of my faith.
His birth marked a new beginning. As the carol says: ‘The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
So what is the legacy of Queen Elizabeth? Yes she left the example of the traits mentioned above, but her real legacy, that which influenced not just British leaders over many decades but also the leaders of many other nations, is her Character, one that flowed from the bedrock of her faith, that is Jesus Christ.
That faith begets a Character that is especially marked by two things-
1. It seeks to serve, indeed which, in the words of the Apostle Paul-
‘In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of your to the interests of the others’. Philippians 2:3a and 4.
That commitment to the service of others Elizabeth exampled throughout her reign.
2. An intention to proclaim Christ to others who did not know him. This the Queen did on many public occasions, even when she knew that many in her audience (millions in the case of her Christmas addresses) did not have that faith.
Both are Christ’s instructions to all Christians. That is her example to follow.
Vale Elizabeth – Queen