As 2012 turns into 2013, let us remember to memorable anniversaries of this year: HM Queeen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee and the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. In the spirit of this Christmastide, I would like to turn your attention to the Queen’s Christmas Message of this year.
Every year, HM Elizabeth gives a lovely Christmas message, which goes through the major news for the monarchy and the Commonwealth, and then concludes with a reflection upon Christmas itself, tying the theme into a popular Christmas carol. Last year, Her Majesty focussed upon the importance of forgiveness, which is at the centre of the Christmas story, for God sent us a Saviour, not a statesman or a philosopher. This year, she turned our attention to community and bringing people together to celebrate this feast, just as the angels called the shepherds to join Mary and Joseph at the manger.
Queen Elizabeth called us to bring into our homes those who are alone this Christmastide. For the first time, my wife and I actually took heed of this very Christian vision of hospitality at what has become yet another festival of the modern pagan Cult of the Family. I can actually say that I practise what I preach, here! We had a Canadian friend who studies in Glasgow come over from Christmas Eve until Boxing Day, and for the dinner on Christmas itself we invited over an Italian girl we’d met at church on the 16th. She was working on Christmas until 5:00 and had no plans that day. And so we opened up our home and invited in two friends, one from our days in undergrad, one of just over a week.
This sort of hospitality is common to many cultures and should imbue the fabric of Christian community. At Christmas, as Christina Rossetti says ‘love come down.’ As John 1 puts, God the Word ‘became flesh and pitched His tent among us.’ We were not left alone in the darkness and sorrow of our sin, but brought into relationship with the living God. Therefore, in light of the Incarnation, we should open up our hearts and homes and lives to those around us, even when it makes us uncomfortable. What is the point of a sacrifice for which you do not suffer?
Furthermore, the revelation of Jesus Christ led to a long meditation upon Scripture that resulted in a vision of God as three-person’d. If we pray with John Donne, ‘Batter my heart, Three-person’d God’, we should realise that communion, koinonia, lies at the heart of the Godhead, of the unmoved mover, of the one who made everything — including ourselves. And with God as our true Father, all fellow-Christians — if not, indeed, all the human race — are siblings. Therefore, these festivals in the Cult of the Family call us to open up our doors and kitchens and dining tables to the much wider family that is bound by more than blood, in remembrance of the Trinity who reorders our hearts and loyalties beyond the merely human.
All of this I have thought for a while, and I actually, finally acted upon it! And there was HM Queen Elizabeth II exhorting us all to do likewise in light of the Incarnation of God as an infant.
Therefore, in remembrance of the 350th anniversary of the 1662 BCP, let’s say a prayer for the Queen, a woman not young with a busy and important job:
Almighty God, whose kingdom is everlasting, and power infinite; Have mercy upon the whole Church; and so rule the heart of thy chosen Servant Elizabeth, our Queen and Governor, that she (knowing whose minister she is) may above all things seek thy honour and glory: and that we, and all her subjects (duly considering whose authority she hath) may faithfully serve, honour, and humbly obey her, in thee, and for thee, according to thy blessed Word and ordinance; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth, ever one God, world without end. Amen.