You can tell what’s important to people by what they praise.
The Queen is no exception.
Yes, she affirms excellence in any field, but it is selflessness she praises most. Indeed, her view of citizen neighbour love goes beyond spontaneous acts of generosity to a much more radical giving of our best gifts for the sake of others:
‘It is my prayer this Christmas Day that [Jesus’] example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others.’
For her, neighbour-loving is a lifestyle, not a gesture; a duty of citizenship not an occasional impulse. And it is a vision for the nation, not just an exhortation to individuals. In this kingdom of kindness, the measure is not the grandness of the action or the scale of its impact but the selflessness that impels it. So, in her 1980 Christmas address, after a long list of ways people contribute, she concluded:
‘And I include all those who don’t realise that they deserve thanks and are content that what they do is unseen and unrewarded.’
Perhaps, a kingdom of kindness sounds rather twee, but ponder a moment how rare selfless kindness is – at work, in a queue, at the school gate; ponder a moment how much we all need the Spirit to live kindly, and how vital a culture of selflessness is to our national interests. As a recent piece in The Guardian argued, ‘A vision of humanity that transcends narrow self-interest’ is the essential prerequisite for addressing the challenges the world faces.
The Queen’s vision is deeply rooted in her devotion to and understanding of Christ:
‘This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son “to serve, not to be served”. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ.’
Simply put, the Queen has sought to model herself on Christ. He put others first, I will too; he served, I will too; he let the little children come to him, I will too; he pointed beyond himself to the Father, I too will point beyond myself – to Christ.
For my part, I am immensely grateful to God for the Queen’s magnificent example of Christ-inspired service, and immensely grateful that she points us so humbly to the King she serves so beautifully.