More than eight million people in the UK watched the Queen’s message on Christmas day last year. Millions more throughout the Commonwealth saw her, some in different time zones many hours before our 3 o’clock slot.
Always eagerly anticipated, the Queen’s message has a certain predictability about it. She reflects on the world scene, shares some family moments and commends those who sacrificially serve.
She anchors all she says in the first Christmas, when God came into our world in the person of Jesus, born in Bethlehem and destined to die to ‘save his people from their sins’.
1939 Christmas message
The tradition of our monarch giving a Christmas Day message goes back to 1932, with a radio message by King George V. Seven years later, King George VI included in his message these now famous words: ‘I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown”. And he replied, “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be better than light, and safer than a known way”.’
First Christmas message
But the first ever Christmas message was announced by an angel to a group of shepherds watching over their sheep on a hillside near Bethlehem, saying to them: ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: you will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.
‘Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’
No infant prince or princess, child of an emperor or new-born of a president has had their birth marked by angels singing, and later by a star guiding wise men to the place of their birth. But Jesus was no ordinary baby. He is the King of kings, Lord of lords and Saviour of the world.
No wonder this Christmas day message is so important. It must not be missed, because the Bible says that one day everyone will bow and acknowledge him to be the King. Jesus is the only Saviour. It is what his name means.
Jesus came to serve, and to seek and to save those who are lost. As a baby, Jesus was laid in a wooden crib. Thirty-three years later, after living a spotless life, he hung on a wooden cross, carrying on himself the sin of the world.
He paid the penalty for our wrongdoing, so that if we trust him we can find forgiveness, new life, and a relationship with God himself. Jesus came from heaven to earth so that when we eventually die and leave this earth, we would not be lost in hell, but be with him in heaven forever.
If we watch the Queen’s message this year, we will soon continue our Christmas day, moving on from, and probably forgetting, all we have heard. But we really must not do that with the message proclaimed from heaven. We each need the living, risen Jesus to be our personal Lord and Saviour in life and into eternity. Ask the Lord Jesus Christ today to make you his!
2012 Christmas message
Part of Queen Elizabeth’s message that year said this: ‘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”.
‘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 a philosopher nor a 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.’
Roger Carswell is an itinerant evangelist and a member of the Association of Evangelists