The Queen delivered an explicitly Christian message of hope today, pledging that the "light" will overcome the darkness facing the world.
With characteristic restraint, she acknowledged the horrors of 2015 but also quoted from John's Gospel and said she was looking forward to the year ahead when she moves into her tenth decade.
Speaking amid carolling fom the choristers of the Chapel Royal at St James's Palace, London, she said: "It is true that the world has had to confront moments of darkness this year, but the Gospel of John contains a verse of great hope, often read at Christmas carol services: 'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.'"
Few sights evoke more feelings of cheer and goodwill than the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree, she added, acknowledging that the Christmas tree was introduced to Britain at least partly by her great-great grandparents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
"Gathering round the tree gives us a chance to think about the year ahead – I am looking forward to a busy 2016, though I have been warned I may have Happy Birthday sung to me more than once or twice. It also allows us to reflect on the year that has passed, as we think of those who are far away or no longer with us. Many people say the first Christmas after losing a loved one is particularly hard. But it's also a time to remember all that we have to be thankful for."
She will be 90 years old on 21 April 2016.
Referring to the Bible story of Mary and Joseph's flight from Bethlehem to Egypt to escape King Herod's slaughter of the innocents, the Queen said: "It's no surprise that such a human story still captures our imagination and continues to inspire all of us who are Christians, the world over.
"Despite being displaced and persecuted throughout his short life, Christ's unchanging message was not one of revenge or violence but simply that we should love one another. Although it is not an easy message to follow, we shouldn't be discouraged; rather, it inspires us to try harder: to be thankful for the people who bring love and happiness into our own lives, and to look for ways of spreading that love to others, whenever and wherever we can."
She then quoted the proverbial saying popularised in 1961 by Peter Benenson, the English lawyer who founded Amnesty International, at a Human Rights Day ceremony: "It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness." There are millions of people lighting candles of hope in our world today, she concluded.