I have recently obtained copies of a book entitled ‘The Servant Queen and the King she serves’ which recounts the journey of faith that our Queen has taken over the 90 years of her life. It is an interesting read and vividly describes how she has looked to Christ as a source of comfort and strength throughout her long life. It reminded me of a story that is told about Queen Victoria who also was a woman of faith.
It is recorded that in the year of Victoria’s coronation she attended a public performance of Handel’s oratorio ‘The Messiah’. Traditionally during the famous ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ the audience rise to their feet as a mark of respect and honour for Christ. Queen Victoria however was advised by her courtiers that it was her royal prerogative to remain seated. As the chorus began and the audience rose, a struggle took place in the Queen’s mind. Should she observe court etiquette or should she honour the Lord she loved. As the choir sang the inspiring words: ‘King of kings, and Lord of lords’, she rose and stood on the royal Box bearing witness to Christ the Lord. On another occasion she uttered the words ‘Oh, I wish He would come today, so that I could lay my crowns at His feet!’
Both these queens enjoyed the longest reigns of any English monarch. Queen Victoria ruled over the British Empire in its heyday, and Queen Elizabeth II has presided over the British Commonwealth. Yet despite the pomp and pageantry associated with their positions both women have publicly stated that there is a far greater King, a king that they love to honour and serve. That king is Jesus Christ.
In Philippians we read these words: 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 2:9-11
One day every knee will bow and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord. Everyone from the greatest to the least will declare that He is King of kings and Lord of lords. It is wonderful to know that England’s longest reigning monarchs were pleased to set aside their earthly majesty to honour Christ.
What about you? Are you pleased to own Him as King of kings and Lord of lords?
This blog post featured in the April 2016 edition of Lifelines
As a schoolboy I did not have the neatest of handwriting and my exercise books quickly became messy and dog eared. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, I enjoyed getting a new exercise book at the beginning of term, or when an old one was full. Full of good intentions I would take great care to write slowly and neatly in the first few pages, but invariably would lapse back into bad habits long before I got to half way through, as I would start to rush my work.
Many people think that being a Christian is a case of turning over a new leaf, rather like getting a brand new exercise book and working hard to write neatly. They understand that God is loving and merciful and so come to him seeking forgiveness but promising to do better next time. The underlying thought process is that if they can somehow live a good enough life going forward, that will in some way make amends for all that has gone before. There are two flaws with this kind of thinking. Firstly at its root is the idea that we can earn God’s favour. However, the bible is clear that none of us can ever be good enough to earn God’s favour. The second flaw is that before too long, just like my wayward handwriting, we revert to old patterns of behaviour and can get trapped in cycles of guilt.
The true message of the bible is that we are powerless to change but God is powerful. PJ Smyth, a preacher in South Africa, expresses it like this: “Nothing I can do can make God love me more, and nothing I can do can make God love me less.” This is the ultimate in equality! No matter how good we might be we can never be good enough, but God offers us forgiveness through Christ anyway. No matter how bad we might be we can never be so bad that God will refuse to forgive us if we come to him through Jesus Christ. The bible calls the process of forgiveness in Christ being born again because, rather than turning over a new leaf, we embark on a new life. The remarkable thing about this transformation is that when we truly grasp that God loves us like that, and forgiveness is due to God’s mercy alone, then we can be set free from guilt. The motivation for living therefore becomes gratitude to God rather than seeking to win his favour.
This New Year, rather than making resolutions to turn over a new leaf, come instead and receive a new life in Christ – it’s freely available to everyone who will respond!
This blog post featured in the January 2015 edition of Hook Focus
I am sure that many of you will shortly be writing Christmas cards to various friends and family members. Despite the proliferation of social media and other electronic forms of communication these are not as tangible ways of sending seasonal greetings as physical Christmas cards. The tradition in our home is to staple strings of cards together and then hang them on the walls of our lounge and dining room.
I wonder what kind of cards you like to choose: modern or traditional, comic scenes or wintry landscapes? Many cards seem to bear little real connection with Christmas at all. Politicians and celebrities send photographs of their families, others wishing to avoid causing offence choose the greeting “Happy Winter Holiday” or similar. My personal preference is to send cards that depict some aspect of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Yet even here myth and reality often collide as, in attempting to recreate the perfect Christmas scene, artists get their chronology mixed up. Perhaps worse still, the nativity is depicted in an idealised and somewhat romantic manner. The truth is that the birth of Christ was noisy and messy, the same as the birth of any other human being. The stable where he was born was a working stable, full of the sounds and smells of the farmyard, hardly a hygienic place for a baby to be born! A modern Christmas Carol more accurately captures the atmosphere with line: “From the squalor of a borrowed stable.”
Yet this realisation, far from demeaning the nativity, actually provokes even greater wonder. Paul wrote “Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men”. The squalid circumstances of Jesus’ birth serve to highlight lengths to which he was willing to go to rescue us. Paul goes on to state “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” So we move from a squalid scene to one that to our eyes seems gruesome.
If we sanitise either of these two events then we rob them of their power. Ugly though they may be, the truth is that they are both perfect scenes because they are essential to God’s great plan for redemption. Whenever you see a depiction of the nativity scene this Christmas I would urge you to look deeper and discover the joy that comes from discovering the real Jesus that so often gets obscured by fluffy lambs and cute donkeys. You are invited to come and join us at one of the Christmas services arranged by the various churches in Hook and discover the real meaning of Jesus birth.
This blog post featured in the December 2013 edition of Hook Focus