Those switching on their televisions at 3pm on Christmas Day this year will undoubtedly feel a sense of nostalgia following the Queen’s passing as well as one of expectation for King Charles III’s first festive message.
In fact, this year marks the 90th anniversary of the first Christmas broadcast made by the Queen’s grandfather George V in 1932 and the first by a male monarch in seven decades.
In an ever-changing world, the Queen’s Christian faith was often apparent in her Christmas messages over 70 years which many believed she used as an evangelistic opportunity. We now look back on some of her most faith-filled quotes from the past decade.
As well as highlighting some of the work done during the year’s royal tours and the importance of unity and hope, the Queen also spoke of the power of forgiveness and salvation received through Jesus.
She said: “Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are) – but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.
“Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.”
In what was her 60th Christmas message delivered, Her Majesty praised the volunteers behind the London Olympics and thanked everyone who joined her in celebrating her Platinum Jubilee.
She also used her Christmas message to remind people of the Christian principle of service to others.
“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. It is my prayer this Christmas Day that his example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others,” she said.
As well as a general call for reflection, Her Majesty celebrated the birth and Christening of her third great-grandchild Prince George. In her message, she also mentions Jesus' love emphasising the fact that “no one is beyond its reach”.
She said: “For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people. The Christmas message shows us that this love is for everyone. There is no one beyond its reach.
Her Majesty’s 2014 Christmas message was focused on the need of reconciliation and forgiveness as she mentioned the Northern Ireland peace process and the Scottish referendum. The Queen said Jesus Christ was “an anchor” in her life and a “role-model of reconciliation”.
She said: “For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role-model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.”
In the Christmas of 2015, Her Majesty decided to quote the Gospel of John bringing attention to Jesus’ light “shining in the darkness” in what was a year marked by disasters, terrorist attacks, and a refugee crisis.
She said: “Despite being displaced and persecuted throughout his short life, Christ's unchanging message was not one of revenge or violence but simply that we should love one another. Although it is not an easy message to follow, we shouldn't be discouraged; rather, it inspires us to try harder: to be thankful for the people who bring love and happiness into our own lives, and to look for ways of spreading that love to others, whenever and wherever we can.”
Inspiration was the main theme in the Queen’s Christmas message in 2016. She praised the achievements of British Olympics and Paralympics athletes and of those who are ordinary people doing small things with big impact in their communities. It was this latter characteristic that she used to bring Jesus in the message.
She said: “Jesus Christ lived obscurely for most of his life, and never travelled far. He was maligned and rejected by many, though he had done no wrong. And yet, billions of people now follow his teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe.
“The message of Christmas reminds us that inspiration is a gift to be given as well as received, and that love begins small but always grows.”
As well as paying tribute to the victims of the London and Manchester arena terror attacks, Her Majesty also sent her thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.
She also used her speech to remind people of the Christmas story.
She said: “We remember the birth of Jesus Christ whose only sanctuary was a stable in Bethlehem. He knew rejection, hardship and persecution; and yet it is Jesus Christ’s generous love and example which has inspired me through good times and bad.
“Whatever your own experiences this year; wherever and however you are watching or listening, I wish you a peaceful and very happy Christmas.”
As she mentioned the centenaries of the Royal Air Force and the Armistice, as well as her grandchildren's weddings, Her Majesty pointed again at the Christmas story – the birth of Jesus Christ.
She said: “The Christmas story retains its appeal since it doesn’t provide theoretical explanations for the puzzles of life. Instead it’s about the birth of a child and the hope that birth -- 2,000 years ago -- brought to the world. Only a few people acknowledged Jesus when he was born. Now billions follow him. I believe his message of peace-on-earth and goodwill-to-all is never out of date. It can be heeded by everyone. It’s needed as much as ever.”
Although the Queen did not explicitly mention the divisions caused because of Brexit which led to general election, she described the year as “quite bumpy” which was widely interpreted as a hint to Brexit. She used the example of Jesus’ teachings in terms of reconciliation.
She said: “Of course, at the heart of the Christmas story lies the birth of a child: a seemingly small and insignificant step overlooked by many in Bethlehem. But in time, through his teaching and by his example, Jesus Christ would show the world how small steps taken in faith and in hope can overcome long-held differences and deep-seated divisions to bring harmony and understanding.
“Many of us already try to follow in his footsteps. The path, of course, is not always smooth, and may at times this year have felt quite bumpy, but small steps can make a world of difference.”
In a year dominated by the Covid pandemic, the Queen chose to reference the parable of the Good Samaritan to praise countless people who have helped strangers during the pandemic.
She said: “Jesus touched on this with the parable of the Good Samaritan. The man who is robbed and left at the roadside is saved by someone who did not share his religion or culture. This wonderful story of kindness is still as relevant today. Good Samaritans have emerged across society showing care and respect for all, regardless of gender, race or background, reminding us that each one of us is special and equal in the eyes of God.
“The teachings of Christ have served as my inner light, as has the sense of purpose we can find in coming together to worship.”
The Queen’s last message was marked by a tribute to her husband Prince Philip who had passed away earlier in the year. She also said Jesus’ teachings were “the bedrock of my faith”.
She said: “It is this simplicity of the Christmas story that makes it so universally appealing: simple happenings that formed the starting point of the life of Jesus — a man whose teachings have been handed down from generation to generation, and have been the bedrock of my faith. His birth marked a new beginning. As the carol says, ‘The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight’.”