Happy 90th birthday to Her Majesty the Queen! As she said on Christmas Day last year, she will have ‘Happy Birthday’ sung to her many times this year!
Born on 21 April 1926 in London, Elizabeth was the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York. She was third in line of succession to the throne. It was not expected that her father would go on to become King (George VI) or that she would become Queen.
She married the Duke of Edinburgh, whom she had known for many years, in Westminster Abbey on 20 November 1947. She had to collect clothing coupons for her dress, as the nation was still on rationing after the war! Now they have four children, eight grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
Elizabeth was crowned Queen in Westminster Abbey on 2 June 1953. She was presented with a Bible and was told, as her predecessors had been in previous coronations since 1689, ‘We present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is wisdom; this is the royal Law; these are the lively Oracles of God’. She continues the line of United Kingdom monarchs which began in 1603.
In her 90 years the world has changed. Television has become the dominant medium; man has gone into space and walked on the moon, and the Union Jack has ‘flown’ in space; the Berlin wall was built and broken down; travel has become available to us all; we have the world wide web.
Today, she has over 600 patronages of organisations and charities. She is Head of State, the Fount of Justice, Head of the Armed Forces, the Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. She is our longest reigning monarch. And, as we all know, she loves animals, especially horses and dogs.
Of course, she bestows honours on those her government deems fit. She also sends congratulatory messages to those celebrating their 100th and 105th birthdays and those celebrating their 60th, 65th and 70th wedding anniversaries.
Whatever our political views, as part of a nation which is a constitutional monarchy and belongs to a commonwealth of nations, we esteem her, admiring her dogged work, her commitment and loyalty to her high role and her part in the life of the nation.
And we will enjoy the birthday celebrations with millions of others. We pray in the words of our national anthem, ‘God save the Queen’.
In her 2011 Christmas Day message to the Commonwealth, Her Majesty the Queen, after speaking about her family said: ‘For many, this Christmas will not be easy. With our armed forces deployed around the world, thousands of service families face Christmas without their loved ones at home.
‘The bereaved and the lonely will find it especially hard. And, as we all know, the world is going through difficult times. All this will affect our celebration of this great Christian festival.
‘Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes 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”.
‘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.‘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.
‘In the last verse of this beautiful carol, ‘O little town of Bethlehem’, there’s a prayer:‘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.
“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’.
There is a Monarch before whom even Her Majesty the Queen will one day bow. He is eternal, with no beginning or end. In the very Book with which the Queen was presented on her coronation, we read about Jesus that ‘the Lord will reign for ever and ever’.
Jesus is the King of kings, the ultimate Sovereign. He rules over all of creation. He is high and exalted, surrounded by worshipping angels. To him is due the worship of the nations. God does not have a birthday, for he is eternal. But God took on himself a human body, was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger.
The Bible says of Jesus: ‘Who, being in very natureGod, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very natureof a servant, being made in human likeness.
‘And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’(Philippians 2:6-11).
I have never met the Queen, and never had an invitation to do so! I have ‘met’ King Jesus, because he loved me (and you) so much that he left the splendour of heaven to be born and laid in a manger in Bethlehem.
Having led an absolutely regal life, committing no sin, and revealing no selfishness, he went to die on a cross. There, he took on himself all the sin and rebellion of his citizens. He died in our place. He took the hell which would be ours. It was the ultimate act of sacrifice, which he made because he loves us so much.
He died that we might come to know God in a personal way. As King, even over death, Jesus rose again, defeating the grave. Today, Jesus is exalted. One day, he will return as Lord, Judge and King. As he said, ‘I am [the Christ], and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven’ (Mark 14:62).
Today, the King of all kings invites you to receive him as Lord and Saviour, and then live with him. He promises that he will never leave nor forsake you in life, and will finally, through death, take you into eternity with himself.
Roger Carswell is an itinerant evangelist and a member of the Association of Evangelists.