The royal celebrations this year focus on an international figurehead, who declared only three months ago: ‘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’.
Then, in her Diamond Jubilee message, HM Queen Elizabeth II said, ‘As I mark 60 years as your Queen, I am writing to thank you for the wonderful support you have given to me and Prince Philip over these years.
‘In this special year, as I dedicate myself anew to your service, I hope we will all be reminded of the power of togetherness and the convening strength of family, friendship and good neighbourliness.
‘I hope this Jubilee year will be a time to give thanks for the great advances that have been made since 1952 and to look to the future with clear head and warm heart’.
The celebrations that will attend our Queen’s Diamond Jubilee are set to be lavish. The Accession Day launch this month was marked by a 21-gun salute by the Royal Navy’s Fort Blockhouse gun at Gosport, Hampshire, together with royal visits including to a school.
Many countries have announced their intention to issue commemorative coins, dedicate new buildings, create national holidays and lay on various exhibitions.
In the UK, on the official June 2012 weekend, there will be a 1,000-ship Jubilee flotilla sailing up the Thames, comprising vessels from Dunkirk little ships to Dragon boats. There will be a ticketed Jubilee Concert with Elton John and others, staged in front of Buckingham Palace.
Christian organisation Hope has published a range of free resources for churches to use as people across the nation host Jubilee Lunches on 3 June.
For many, the celebrations will be as memorable as her reign, which began on 6 February 1952. Princess Elizabeth was in Kenya when she heard her father King George VI had died.
At that moment, she became the first queen regnant of the UK and Commonwealth realms since Queen Victoria. And, next to Victoria, she is the second-longest reigning British monarch.
Her reign has outlasted 12 British prime ministers, 12 US presidents and six popes. She has visited 116 countries and is set to visit several more this Jubilee year.
Sadly too, her family has known painful times during her reign. It has been castigated by an ungrateful minority as a burden on the taxpayer. Then, in 1981, a teenager fired several blanks at the Queen as she rode down the Mall.
The media pursued her late sister, Princess Margaret, and crawled all over the breakdown of the marriage of the Prince of Wales to Princess Diana. Her Windsor home caught fire in the early 1990s and she was criticised for a perceived slowness in responding to Diana’s death in 1997.
Just before Christmas last year, her husband, the 90-year old Prince Philip, underwent surgery. Through tough times for both nation and monarchy, however, the Queen has shown great attention to duty.
Given that she stands so firmly for family values and Christian morality, it is hardly surprising to find that the Royal Family has had its detractors. Yet they have been silent about her faith and values this year, while many others have commended her for those very characteristics.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, columnist Damian Thompson said, ‘The Queen is the most impressive religious leader in Britain … She affirms, naturally but unflinchingly and with no attempt at religious relativism, her faith in Jesus Christ’.
This writer has met HM the Queen and Prince Philip on two separate occasions, in two different continents! Yet what matters is the example of leadership set to all by our national head.
Christians can take heart that the Queen has, in her public utterances, refused to be cowed, not only by anti-monarchy protestors, but by strident secular humanists and others like them, whose anti-Christian activity has silenced too many ordinary Christian people in our nation.
God alone knows the hearts of men and women, including those who rule over us, but we can surely echo on behalf of our Monarch petitions first prayed by the people of Israel for King David.
‘May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble; may the name of the God of Jacob defend you; may he send you help from the sanctuary, and strengthen you out of Zion’ (Psalm 20:1-2).
Our nation has been favoured with the long reign of a fine ruler, who has embodied to us the quiet virtues of dignity, service and loyalty. Surely, we must not take such blessings for granted.
We wish HM the Queen, even at 85 years, many more years reign over us, of continued dignity, tranquillity and prosperity, in the truest senses of those words — blessings that ultimately only flow from the effects of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in society.