In my last post, I linked to a reminiscence of St. John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco. One paragraph in that talk mentioned St John’s committed monarchism and loyalty to the Russian royal family. It went on to say:
Vladika was firmly opposed to substituting the prayer for right-believing kings with the words “Orthodox Christians”. Specifically, in the troparion, “Save, O Lord, Thy people,” he insisted on the words, “victory to right-believing kings.”
Monarchism isn’t the most popular point of view in modern times, and I won’t get into its merits here. But I was reminded of the words about “right-believing kings” when I came across a report of Queen Elizabeth’s 2011 Christmas address to the British people. (The King or Queen has been delivering a radio or television Christmas address since 1932, when King George V gave the first (written by Rudyard Kipling!)
Much of the address is fairly standard Christmas-greetings stuff, but the closing is, to my mind, a powerful reflection on the religious meaning of “this great Christian festival.”
For many, this Christmas will not be easy. With our armed forces deployed around the world, thousands of service families face Christmas without their loved ones at home.
The bereaved and the lonely will find it especially hard. And, as we all know, the world is going through difficult times. All this will affect our celebration of this great Christian festival.
Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas. Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: ‘Fear not’, they urged, ‘we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
‘For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.’
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 the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, there’s a prayer:
O Holy Child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us we pray.
Cast out our sin
And enter in.
Be born in us today.
It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.
I wish you all a very happy Christmas.”
In a secular democracy like ours, the President isn’t meant to be a stand-in for the missing Monarch, and there’s no real reason that we should expect him to deliver such an open defense of the Faith. Great Britain is on the whole a much more secularized society than ours in the United States, so perhaps many who listened to the message found it inappropriate or even incomprehensible. But the Queen’s message made me wonder — not for the first time — whether a nation can be called Christian without a Christian ruler. With secularism written into the Constitution (as it is, though some like to deny it), there seems little chance of this happening soon.