This Sunday, for the first time anyone can remember, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II missed Christmas church service. But she still spoke to her country through her annual Christmas Broadcast, which was prerecorded.
The queen, who has a bad cold, spoke of being inspired by the medal winners from the U.K. in the Olympic and Paralympic games this year, as well as the doctors, paramedics and crew she met while opening a new base for the East Anglian Air Ambulance. Then she added:
“To be inspirational, you don’t have to save lives or win medals. I often draw strength from meeting ordinary people doing extraordinary things: volunteers, carers, community organizers and good neighbors; unsung heroes whose quiet dedication makes them special.
“They are an inspiration to those who know them, and their lives frequently embody a truth expressed by Mother Teresa, from this year Saint Teresa of Calcutta. She once said, ‘Not all of us can do great things — but we can do small things with great love.’ ”
The queen said she knew that sometimes the world’s problems seem too big for individuals to affect.
“On our own, we cannot end wars or wipe out injustice,” she said. “But the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of goodness can be bigger than we imagine.”
Having inherited the throne from her father King George at just 25, the 90-year-old is the world’s longest-reigning monarch. She and her 95-year-old husband, Prince Philip, remain active participants in public engagements — The Telegraph estimated last year that the queen carried out more public engagements than her grandsons, Harry and William, and William’s wife Kate, combined.
The Christmas Broadcast was a tradition begun over the radio by Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather, King George V, in 1932. The text of the first Christmas Broadcast was written by Rudyard Kipling, and began: “I speak now from my home and from my heart to you all; to men and women so cut off by the snows, the desert, or the sea, that only voices out of the air can reach them.” Queen Elizabeth II gave her first message in 1952, and the first televised Christmas Broadcast in 1957.
In what has become another annual tradition, the BBC’s Channel 4 has broadcast an alternative to the Christmas message every year since 1993. Sometimes these messages are funny, but this year the tone was somber: The message came from the widower of Jo Cox, the 41-year-old lawmaker who was murdered in the days before the EU Referendum. Brendan Cox called for unity in 2017.
“2016 has been an awful year for our family. And it’s been a divisive one for the wider world,” Cox said. “If 2016 was a wake up call, I hope 2017 might be the year in which we realize that we’ve got more in common than that which divides us.”