Queen Elizabeth's Christmas message focuses on hope at close of pandemic-stricken year
‘Remarkably, a year that has necessarily kept people apart has in many ways brought us closer’
Queen Elizabeth's annual Christmas message looks back on a year in which the coronavirus pandemic cast a pall over the world but brought out the "indomitable" spirit of those who rose to the challenges.
In her address broadcast Friday, the 94-year-old monarch acknowledged the "difficult and unpredictable times."
"For many, this time of year will be tinged with sadness — some mourning the loss of those dear to them, and others missing friends and family members, distanced for safety, when all they really want for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand," she said.
"If you are among them, you are not alone, and let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers."
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With infection rates soaring in recent weeks and many hospitals nearing their capacities, the British government on Dec. 19 cancelled Christmas gatherings and festive shopping for millions in a bid to control the spread of the virus. The United Kingdom has reported well over two million cases of the coronavirus since the pandemic began and topped 70,000 deaths on Friday for the second-highest death toll in Europe behind Italy.
Worldwide, the number of reported cases was nearing 80 million, with more than 1.7 million deaths.
Praise for front-line workers
While acknowledging the hardship experienced by many, the Queen devoted much of her address to celebrating the actions of those who have stepped up to provide help.
"Remarkably, a year that has necessarily kept people apart has in many ways brought us closer. Across the Commonwealth, my family and I have been inspired by stories of people volunteering in their communities helping those in need," she said.
"In the United Kingdom and around the world, people have risen magnificently to the challenges of the year, and I'm so proud and moved by this quiet, indomitable spirit."
The Queen in particular highlighted the contributions of front-line workers and young people, evoking the parable of the Good Samaritan, as well as the Unknown Warrior, an unidentified British soldier from the First World War whose tomb is at London's Westminster Abbey.
The monarch ended her message on a note of hope.
"The Bible tells how a star appeared in the sky, its light guiding the shepherds and wise men to the scene of Jesus's birth. Let the light of Christmas, the spirit of selflessness, love and, above all, hope guide us in the times ahead," she said.
Like many others, the Royal Family has had to adapt to the realities of the pandemic this holiday season. The Queen recorded her Christmas address at Windsor Castle in Berkshire, where she has been living in near isolation with Prince Philip for much of the pandemic.
Buckingham Palace has said that the couple is spending Christmas "quietly" at Windsor this year, instead of hosting their traditional large family gathering at Sandringham House in Norfolk.
With files from The Associated Press