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It was with some trepidation on Christmas Day 2011 when I began watching the Queen discuss family in her annual address to the nation.

Prince Philip, 90, spent Christmas in hospital; he had a stent fitted to unblock a coronary artery. Thankfully, news reports indicated he is doing well and is quite eager to return home.

The Queen’s Christmas speeches are recorded well in advance of the day. No one would have anticipated that her consort would find himself in hospital.

She spoke about the importance of the traditional family structure and reviewed events in the Royal Family’s own life — including the two weddings of the past year — on unity and support in times of trial. Perhaps in a nod to those without family nearby, she added that neighbourhoods and communities can serve as a means of mutual support and friendship when we need them most.

The Telegraph‘s editorial on the speech had this to say:

As the Duke recovers from his operation, both he and his wife will be able to draw similar strength from the family around them, this year enlarged with the marriage of two of their grandchildren. Indeed, it was appropriate that this was the very theme of Her Majesty’s Christmas message: the way that family, and the support of those we love, enables us to cope with times of hardship, and how such trials often draw out “the most and best” of the human spirit …

It is, of course, a cliché of the festive season to talk about the importance of family and community, and of being supported by those we love. But it is a cliché for a reason. Our families, our friends, our communities – and yes, our faith – are what sustain us in difficult times, and make life about more than simply the accumulation of wealth (or, in times such as these, the protection of what wealth we have).

The Queen also discussed the significance of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ:

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.

She emphasised the importance of forgiveness in our own lives, drawing on Christ’s example.

Yes, it is difficult to excuse one another’s faults.  It is easy to carry on grudges against family, friends, neighbours and colleagues. I’ve done it myself and will be the first to admit my blind spots in this area.  Maybe this is something to focus on during 2012.

But whilst the Archbishop of Canterbury went on about the class divide and his support of the Tobin Tax at Christmas, many of us in Britain are grateful that our Head of State and Defender of the Faith chose to focus on family, which sustains us whatever socio-political dramas are taking place in the world.

A happy 2012 to you and your families!

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