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Queen Elizabeth calls for 'quiet reflection' in her Christmas message

LONDON -- 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 organization 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 neighborliness.”

The queen did not attend the stormy biennial Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka but emphasized 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 sitting next to Rajapakse.

“But however strongly they're expressed they are held within the common bond of friendship and shared experiences.”

Queen Elizabeth sat next to a photograph of her father king George VI, and another 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.

It was started by her grandfather King George V in 1932. It is now filmed in high-definition and posted on the video-sharing website YouTube.

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Children line up to give gifts and flowers to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, left, following a traditional Christmas Day church service at Sandringham in eastern England, Wednesday, Dec. 25. (AFP)

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