A lesson in service from the Queen

Patriotism is a funny thing. The feelings of pride and love for country can make even tough men go weak at the knees and get a wobbly lip at the sound of their national anthem. In spite of the ups and downs of our national history, we see the Union Jack bunting strung up across our streets and shop windows and can’t help but feel a delight in being British.

Emotions are easily stirred but when it comes to our day to day living, how many of us can say we put nation first? Even as Christians, we struggle to put God first a lot of the time!

But nation first has been the calling on the Queen’s life for the last 60 years – a relentless calling from which there is no break and no retirement. Although some may scoff that the Queen was born into a life of privilege and material comfort, it has also been a life that calls for the utmost self-denial that few of us can imagine.

And in addition to the demanding formal occasions that the Queen is called upon to attend as head of state, she remains devoted to the public, with an unceasing schedule of public engagements, be it visits to schools, new hospital wings or budding employment schemes.

The last sixty years have seen huge change in Britain, not all of which has been good, and in addition to national challenges, life within the Royal Family has had its fair share of difficulties and tragedy.

Yet through it all, the Queen has been a remarkable example of dignity, poise and quiet courage. And she has continued to champion service and neighbourliness – a message she often underpins with references to her own Christian faith.

Beyond the formal spiritual titles of Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the Christian principles of sacrifice and service have very much shaped the Queen’s interpretation of what it means to rule a nation. She regards her place as nothing less than a calling from God, a privilege that should not be taken for granted, and this is reflected in the many hours she gives over to being out among her subjects.

As Christians, we are called to love God first, and then to love others as we love ourselves. Whether we are royalist or not, we can thank the Queen for an exemplary life that reflects a deep regard for God, service and devotion to others, and a love for country that is not simply an emotion stirred in the heart, but a life determined to live for others so long as she is able.

At a time of great economic uncertainty and huge spiritual need, there is a challenge in there to all of us. It is easy to be patriotic, but can we be sacrificial?