London (AFP) – Queen Elizabeth II urged people to take the time for quiet reflection in 2014, in her annual Christmas Day message to the Commonwealth.
The head of the 53-country organisation looked back on her own six decades as monarch, in a personal broadcast on Wednesday.
And the 87-year-old also looked forward to the future, saying her baby great-grandson Prince George — third in line to inherit the thrones of 16 Commonwealth realms — was likewise set for a lifetime of service and duty.
She also tried to soothe tensions evident at last month’s Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka, which was dominated by allegations of war crimes against the hosts.
“We all need to get the balance right between action and reflection,” she said, in a message recorded at Buckingham Palace in London.
“With so many distractions, it is easy to forget to pause and take stock.
“Be it through contemplation, prayer, or even keeping a diary, many have found the practice of quiet personal reflection surprisingly rewarding.”
She said the 60th anniversary of her coronation in June 1953 had made her reflect on her own lifelong pledges.
“Service and duty are not just the guiding principles of yesteryear; they have an enduring value which spans the generations,” she said.
“The anniversary reminded me of the remarkable changes that have occurred since the coronation, many of them for the better; and of the things that have remained constant, such as the importance of family, friendship and good neighbourliness.”
The queen did not attend the stormy biennial Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka but emphasised the “family ties” between its members, largely countries of the former British empire.
“Like any family there can be differences of opinion,” she said, over footage of her eldest son Prince Charles sat next to Rajapakse.
“But however strongly they’re expressed they are held within the common bond of friendship and shared experiences.”
Queen Elizabeth was sat next to a photograph of her father king George VI, and one of her with three future generations of monarchs: Charles, his son Prince William and baby George.
She said that, while people reminisce about lost loved ones at Christmas, baby births allow people to think about the future with renewed “happiness and hope”.
“In the year ahead, I hope you will have time to pause for moments of quiet reflection,” she concluded.
“The results can sometimes be surprising.”
The Christmas speech is one of the rare occasions when Queen Elizabeth, whose role is mainly symbolic, is able to voice her own views without consulting government ministers.
The Yuletide message is an annual tradition broadcast at 1500 GMT on Christmas Day.
Lawmakers Once again Fight ‘War on Christmas’
Washington (AFP) – Santa may already be riding his sleigh around the globe doling out gifts, but that did not stop US lawmakers and conservative groups Tuesday from warning of efforts to sabotage Christmas.
Some members of Congress and religious organizations perennially complain of a movement, embracing the concept of separation of church and state, that is attacking the message of the Christmas season.
This month, in an example of what some have called the “war on Christmas,” schoolchildren in Texas were prevented from delivering “Merry Christmas” cards to military veterans because they violated a Veterans Administration policy against specific religious phrasing.
President Barack Obama’s official White House card meanwhile makes no mention of Christmas, instead noting the “joy of the holidays.”
To counter what they see as attacks on Christmas, House of Representatives Republican Doug Lamborn and 36 other lawmakers introduced a resolution saying “the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for use by those who celebrate” the holiday.
“There is a vocal minority that is offended at the rest of us who want to celebrate Christmas,” Lamborn told Fox News on Christmas Eve, urging people to “not put up with these bans.”
Nick Rahall, one of two Democrats to sign on to the non-binding resolution, put it succinctly.
“To substituting time-honored greetings like ‘Merry Christmas’ with empty phrases such as ‘Happy Holidays’ — I say bah humbug,” Rahall said.
The Faith & Freedom Coalition cited a “festivus pole” of beer cans, erected next to a manger with baby Jesus on government property in Florida, as an example of how nativity scenes are being mocked nationwide.
“All of this controversy in America is an attempt to minimize Christmas to just another American federal holiday with no more or no less significance than any other federal holiday,” said the group’s national prayer coordinator, Regina Brown.
One Republican running for Congress in 2014 said the recent kerfuffle over the rant about gays and non-Christian cultures by Phil Robertson, star of cable TV show “Duck Dynasty,” was yet another sign of a national shift toward outright “persecution” of America’s Christians.
“I don’t believe it’s gotten to the point yet,” Ian Bayne told Talking Points Memo last week.
“But I do believe that Phil believes and I believe that we will wake up in an America where if you walk around with the bible you could be arrested,” he said.
US broadcaster Fox News has reported extensively on the apparent “war on Christmas,” producing an interactive map showing where Christmas has been given a bad rap.
But leading televangelist and preacher Joel Osteen went on Fox News Sunday and poured cold water on the theory.
“I think there are certain groups that would like to” take the religious meaning out of Christmas, but “I’m probably not as concerned about it as some others,” Osteen said.
“Not everybody believes like me,” he added. “We’re not all Christians in this nation.”