So did you watch the queen’s speech on Christmas Day? This has become a tradition in England as much as singing carols and hanging up stockings. After lunch, replete with the obligatory turkey and Christmas pudding with brandy butter, we lounge on the couch in front of the TV to listen to her majesty deliver a few well chosen words in her mellifluous voice, meticulously enunciated in the queen’s English. (Of course; if she suddenly came out with an Ozzie accent it would be rather a shock.)
In my youth, my father who fought in the Burmese jungle in the war, would stand to attention and salute while the national anthem was played. Now, sprawling among the tea cups and chocs, we simply remark, “The pearls look nice again”, and “She looks good for her age”, and sundry other penetrating observations.
She has become a master (mistress?) of the bland, politically correct, quick look back at last year’s events, sprinkled with hopes for a better year when everyone works together. To be fair, there has often been an oblique reference to “faith” and “Christian values” and the importance of the family. The nation dutifully– and perhaps cynically– listens.
This year was different. As usual she skilfully blended the national and the personal, mentioning floods in New Zealand and Australia, visits to America and Ireland, troops abroad, and the weddings of two of her grandchildren. Then she moved smoothly into the celebration of Christmas, “the great Christian festival”. Hooray! Boldly reclaimed as Christian, then. She then spoke of Jesus, unequivocally, as the saviour the world needs to know.
“God sent into the world a unique person- neither a philosopher, nor a general, but a Saviour with the power to forgive. Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith….it is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.”
By the time she was finishing with the last verse of “O little Town of Bethlehem”, a prayer for Christ “to cast out sin and enter in”, Christians were sitting up, electrified, thrilled with such a courageous and overt identification with Christian truth.
Courageous, because England has largely thrown away Christianity. People are unwilling to be identified with something which has been labelled archaic, quaint and irrelevant. Remarks of outright contempt on the radio have made me shudder. Yet there have also been signs of change: a positive article in the Sunday Telegraph on the “resurgence” of church going (quoting David Stroud among others); even David Cameron’s remarks about England being a “Christian country”, vague and woolly though they be, brought the subject into the arena of public debate.
Small indications indeed, but let us take heart! Newfrontiers churches everywhere have had record breaking attendances at their Christmas and New Year events. Alpha continues to draw seekers and inquirers. Many churches are holding prayer weeks. Perhaps in these days of financial uncertainty as recession bites deeper, as jobs are increasingly hard to find, and debt plunges many into anxiety, people will begin to realise their need of a Saviour. Let’s keep praying with fresh faith and expectation:
Our queen has made a simple statement: but what we need most is for the King to be made known and his kingdom to come!