Queen Elizabeth praises key workers in Xmas speech

In her traditional pre-recorded Christmas Day address to the nation, the 94-year-old monarch repeatedly spoke of hope for the future whilst acknowledging millions of Britons would be unable to have their usual family celebrations this year.

The Queen herself has had to eschew her traditional Christmas celebrations, and is spending the festive season quietly at Windsor Castle with her husband Prince Philip, 99.

Usually, all the Windsors gather at her home on the Sandringham estate in eastern England. The walk to a nearby church for a Christmas Day service is a staple of the royal calendar.

However, Britain is currently battling to curb the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus, with the number of new infections reaching record levels this week and the number of hospital admissions and deaths soaring.

Much of the country has been placed under tight restrictions, and for London and the surrounding areas, households are not allowed to mix at all over Christmas, while for other areas there are strict curbs limiting contact to just a single day.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC - "GOD SAVE THE QUEEN"]

QUEEN ELIZABETH II: Every year, we herald the coming of Christmas by turning on the lights. And light does more than create a festive mood. Light brings hope.

For Christians, Jesus is the light of the world. But we can't celebrate His birth today in quite the usual way. People of all faiths have been unable to gather as they would wish for their festivals, such as Passover, Easter, Eid, and Vaisakhi. But we need life to go on. Last month, fireworks lit up the sky around Windsor, as Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains celebrated Diwali, the Festival of Lights, providing joyous moments of hope and unity, despite social distancing.

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. 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. To our young people in particular, I say thank you for the part you have played.

This year we celebrated International Nurses Day on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale. As with other nursing pioneers like Mary Seacole, Florence Nightingale shone a lamp of hope across the world. Today, our frontline services still shine that lamp for us, supported by the amazing achievements of modern science. And we owe them a debt of gratitude.

We continue to be inspired by the kindness of strangers, and draw comfort that even on the darkest nights, there is hope in the new dawn. Jesus touched on this with the parable of the good Samaritan, the man who was robbed and left at the roadside, and saved by someone who did not share his religion or culture. This wonderful story of kindness is still as relevant today. Good Samaritans have emerged across society, showing care and respect for all, regardless of gender, race, and background, reminding us that each one of us is special and equal in the eyes of God. The teachings of Christ have served as my inner light, as has the sense of purpose we can find in coming together to worship.

In November, we commemorated another hero, though nobody knows his name. The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior isn't a large memorial, but everyone entering Westminster Abbey has to walk around his resting place, honoring this unnamed combatant of the First World War, a symbol of selfless duty and ultimate sacrifice.

The unknown warrior was not exceptional. That's the point. He represents millions like him who throughout our history have put the lives of others above their own. And we'll be doing so today. For me, this is a source of enduring hope in difficult and unpredictable times. Of course, 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. If you are among them, you are not alone. And let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers.

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. It is in that spirit that I wish you a very happy Christmas.

[MUSIC - "JOY TO THE WORLD"]

(SINGING) Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let Earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing. And heaven and nature sing. And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns. Let men their songs employ. While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains. Repeat the sounding joy. Repeat the sounding joy. Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

He rules the world with truth and grace. And makes the nations prove. And glories of His righteousness. And wonders of His love, and wonders of His love. And wonders, wonders of His love.