On Christmas Day the Queen will broadcast her 64th Christmas Message. In doing this she upholds a tradition that began with her grandfather George V who broadcast 4 speeches, and was continued by her father George VI who broadcast 14 messages. Neither Queen Elizabeth II nor King George VI were expected to become monarch when they were born but their destinies were changed when Edward VIII abdicated. Prince Charles and Prince William on the other hand have lived with the knowledge that they have both been born to be king.
Traditionally the Queen talks about significant events that have occurred during the year and so it would be in keeping with her previous speeches to make reference to her 90th Birthday Celebrations. Often she will comment on worldwide events that affect the UK or the Commonwealth. We will have to wait and see whether she comments on Brexit or, less likely on Trump. Nevertheless this year has been one which has seen seismic changes on the political scene.
Two thousand years ago Jesus was born into a world that was equally fragile from a political perspective. Herod was King of Judea, but this was not much more than a puppet role as the territory was under the jurisdiction of the Roman Emperor. His role was tolerated by the Jewish religious leaders because the stability he gave meant that they had a degree of freedom to follow their religious traditions. But there was always an undercurrent of individuals looking for an opportunity to overthrow Roman rule and implement a Jexit. Little wonder then that Herod was troubled when the Wise Men from the East arrived at his palace wanting to know where they could find the baby born to be King of the Jews.
Herod consulted with his advisors who discovered that the prophet Micah had foretold the birth of a king some 700 years before. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2 NIV) Herod understood this prophecy to mean that the baby the Magi sought was born to become King of the Jews and so he ordered the slaughter of every baby boy under the age of 2.
33 years later as Jesus was about to ascend to heaven following his resurrection, the disciples demonstrated a similar misunderstanding and asked Jesus when he was going to restore the kingdom of Israel. They were still looking for the overthrow of the Roman oppressors. Jesus’ kingdom however is not an earthly realm with geographical boundaries. Rather it is found everywhere that there are followers of Jesus.
This Christmas I pray that you will let the baby born to be king become King of your life.
This blog post featured in the December 2016 edition of Hook Focus
More than 500 people have booked tickets to attend the Hook Royal Party on Sunday June 12th to celebrate the 90th Birthday of Queen Elizabeth II. It is a great joy and privilege for Life Church to be part of the organising committee for this event along with other organisations and churches in Hook. The unity that has been demonstrated by the various parties involved is in itself a testament to the affection which so many people in our community have for Her Majesty. In a country that is increasingly diverse the Queen is highly respected as a figure of stability and consistency throughout her long life and reign.
On 12th June guests at the Garden Party will be offered a souvenir copy of ‘The Servant Queen’, a tribute which examines her life and significantly her faith. By any measure Queen Elizabeth’s life is remarkable. The young princess was born into the Royal Family but as the daughter of the second in line to the throne there was no expectation in her early years that she would ever become Queen. That all changed when her father was crowned King George VI. Soon after that Britain faced the challenge of World War II and the threat this presented to our nation.
In her forward to the book she reminds us of the words quoted by King George in his 1939 Christmas Day speech. ‘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 to you better than light and safer than a known way.”’ Although the Queen never mentions it herself it was she, as a 13 year old girl, who drew the King’s attention to these inspiring words that sustained a nation in its hour of greatest peril.
The Queen’s own testimony is that throughout her life she has consistently placed her hand into the hand of God and found in him a source of strength and courage. Time and again in her Christmas Message she refers to her faith in Jesus Christ and the way that this has informed her life of service to our nation. As British Monarch she deserves the highest respect of her people yet she considers herself first and foremost the servant of another King. That king is Jesus – King of kings and Lord of lords.
So at this time of celebration and rejoicing we wish Her Majesty a very Happy Birthday and encourage everyone who reads this to join her in placing your hand into the hand of God.
This blog post featured in the June 2016 edition of Hook Focus
In May 1940 the allied British, French and Belgian forces numbering some 350,000 troops were cut off and surrounded by the German Army. In a speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill described the events in France as ‘a colossal military disaster’. He advised Parliament that ‘the whole root and core and brain of the British Army’ had been stranded at Dunkirk and seemed about to perish or be captured.
The situation was desperate and, while the British High Command strategized and planned a means for rescuing these troops, King George VI called for a National Day of Prayer. He himself attended a special prayer service at Westminster Abbey on Sunday 26 May. The Archbishop of Canterbury led prayers ‘for our soldiers in dire peril in France’. Up and down the country, and across the British Commonwealth, churches, chapels and synagogues were overcrowded as people turned out in vast numbers to offer up their own prayers.
As a result of those prayers three extraordinary events took place without which the rescue would have been impossible. Firstly for some unknown reason Hitler hesitated, and ordered his advancing armoured divisions to back off. Secondly the skies darkened and a furious storm in Flanders grounded the Luftwaffe. Thirdly a great calm descended on the English Channel which became like millpond. A vast flotilla of boats of all shapes and sizes, including many never designed for crossing the Channel, made their way to France and over the next few days rescued the vast majority of the troops.
The following Sunday the churches were filled once again as the King led a National Day of Thanksgiving for the miraculous rescue that had just taken place. Prayer changes things!
We may not be in a predicament of national peril of the magnitude as was seen 75 years ago, yet many people in our land face seemingly impossible circumstances on a daily basis and don’t know who to turn to. The last weekend in September has been designated as a National Weekend of Prayer and the churches in Hook are joining with hundreds of churches across the UK to pray. We are inviting you, the people in Hook, to let us know what you would like us to pray for on your behalf. You don’t have to be religious, you don’t have to belong to a church, and you don’t even have to give us your name! Simply hand your prayer request in to one of the three churches in Hook during the month of September and over the 3 days 25-27th September we will pray for your situation, confident that Prayer Changes Things.
This blog post featured in the September 2015 edition of Hook Focus