The Queen has invoked Christ's example as a displaced person who answered persecution with a message of love, rather than revenge or violence.

Her implied reference to the Syrian refugee crisis in her traditional Christmas Day address came with a plea for light to shine in a world that "has had to confront moments of darkness this year".

"There is an old saying that it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness," she said at the end of the concise five-minute address, which she began with a brief history lesson of the origins of the tradition of decorating Christmas trees with twinkling lights.

The Queen reminded her global audience of the humble circumstances of the birth of Jesus Christ.

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"For Joseph and Mary, the circumstances of Jesus' birth in a stable were far from ideal, but worst was to come as the family was forced to flee the country," she said.

"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 to the people who bring love and happiness into our own lives, and to look at ways of spreading that love to others, however and wherever we can."

The Queen paid tribute to her great-great-grandparents, Victoria and Albert, for popularising the Christmas tree through a photograph published of their own well-lit specimen.

"After this touching picture was published, many families wanted a Christmas tree of their own, and the custom soon spread."

On the theme of illuminating the spirit, she quoted the Gospel of St John's verse of hope: "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

In reference to the 70th anniversary this year of the end of World War II, she paid tribute to the service and sacrifice of those who took part in "that terrible conflict" and the many thousands who died.

Now a great-grand-mother, the Queen said one of the joys of living a long life was seeing children of successive generations decorating the Christmas tree.

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"And this year, my family has a new member [Princess Charlotte] to join in the fun," she said.

"There are millions of people lighting candles of hope in our world today. Christmas is a good time to be thankful for them, and for all that brings light to our eyes."