There is a strange public silence about the faith of our Queen. It is almost as if there were a spiritual equivalent to the to the visual impairment of being colour blind – we might call it ‘faith-blind’.
For the colour blind, the richness and wonder of colour is inaccessible. Colours are not only what they are, but they act as visual conductors of feeling and emotion. Blue and yellow intimate the vibrancy of joy. Grey and orange convey entirely different feelings. To miss out on colour is to be reduced in what you know, and what you can know, about the world around you.
Faith produces a similar phenomenon. The life, the attitude, the indomitability, the gaiety and the stamina of the Queen flow directly from her relationship with Jesus. The presence, teaching and grace of Jesus colours her personality and her work. When the journalists and politicians talk about how much they admire her qualities of resilience, duty and self-giving, they don’t ask the next, and really what ought to be the most obvious question, ‘what contributes to her being like that?’
It is a paradox that the Supreme Governor of the Church of England cannot easily give voice to her relationship with God and her devotion to Jesus.
Yet a variety of influences have contoured the growth and development of her faith; and not least the preaching and person of the evangelist Billy Graham. It is well known that while much of the country was in a high state of nervous alarm when Billy Graham came here to run his crusades, the Queen by contrast, welcomed him warmly and was entirely at ease with his company and his evangelism.
Bill Graham described one of their meetings when he wrote in his autobiography: “I always found her very interested in the Bible and its message. After preaching at Windsor one Sunday, I was sitting next to the Queen at lunch. I told her I had been undecided until the last minute about my choice of sermon and had almost preached on the healing of the crippled man in John 5. Her eyes sparkled and she bubbled over with enthusiasm, as she could do on occasion. ‘I wish you had!’ she exclaimed. ‘That is my favourite story.'”
One of the ways in which the quiet furnace of her faith has set light to her public witness from time to time in the public space has been through her annual Christmas messages, which have been getting increasingly personal, profound and pious over the years.
In her message of 2002 she said: “I know just how much I rely on my faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning. I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God…I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian Gospel.”
In trying to understand what drives her at 95 to continue to serve the nation, offer unstinting cheer, respond with equal dignity to the rich like Bill Gates or the humble dinner lady receiving her MBE, we can look to her understanding of the incarnation. The incarnation of the God of power as a servant king recasts human, value freeing it from snobbery and social hierarchy. It has re-configured her world and the way she recognises the value of human worth. She is no more affirming to a president than she is to a policewoman.