Today is a very special occasion in the life of our nation, as we celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Only one other British monarch has celebrated a Diamond Jubilee and that was Queen Victoria in 1897.
On her 21st Birthday in 1947, Princess Elizabeth said in a broadcast to the British Empire, “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.”
And as we look back on her 60 years as Queen, who can deny that her long reign has been devoted to “service.” What an incredible marker for a monarch! Not power, or wealth, or prestige, but “service.”
And at the age of 86, when most people would be thinking about putting their feet up, and taking things more easy, the Queen continues to show an extraordinary sense of duty and service. In a speech given to both Houses of Parliament in March of this year, she rededicated herself to "the service of our great country and its people now and in the years to come."
The Queen is not simply Head of State, Head of the Commonwealth, the Fount of Justice, Head of the Armed Forces, the Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. She is also patron of over 600 organisations and charities, 400 of which she has held since 1952. In her sixty year reign she has made 261 official overseas visits, including 96 state visits to 116 different countries, and in the typical year she hosts more than 58,000 people at banquets, lunches, dinners, receptions & Garden Parties.
Routinely, Queen Elizabeth II is referred to as this country’s greatest public servant. A sovereign who serves. What’s her motivation?
In her Christmas message of 2000 she told us:
For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.
The Queen is following the example of Christ: the ultimate Sovereign who serves.
It is the example of Jesus, who came not to be served, but to be serve, which underpins the Queen’s continued commitment to the people of this country and the Commonwealth.
And the call to serve others is the responsibility of all who follow Christ. Jesus set us an example of what Christian service should look like, when at the Last Supper he got down on his hands and feet and washed his disciple’s feet – a job normally reserved for the lowest servant in the household.
In doing this, he showed us what it means to be a follower of Christ. It is that willingness to serve others, to be prepared to get our hands dirty, to love one another, without expecting or demanding anything in return.
We are called to selfless service. As we look at the Queen’s long reign, we can see how her life has been dedicated to the service of our nation. As Dr Rowan Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury recently said, the Queen, “has a profound sense of vocation, not simply stepping into a role exercising function but actually becoming a certain kind of person, which is what vocation is about”.
So today, as we celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, let’s pray for the Queen in her vocation to serve the nation, and let us also rededicate ourselves to the service of others, because Jesus reminds us that when we serve others, we are actually serving him. ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)