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Peter Bodkin

Church leaders urge Christmas hope

Archbishop Anthony Fisher likens the birth of Jesus Christ to the plight of those caught up in war. (Nikki Short/AAP PHOTOS) (AAP)

As war rages in Europe and natural disasters uproot Australians' lives, church leaders have urged people to look on Christmas as a time of hope in the midst of great challenges.

Catholic archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher likened the Christmas story of Jesus's birth to Mary in a Bethlehem stable to the plight of those caught up in the war.

"At Christmas, God comes to us as a newborn baby, the most vulnerable of creatures; as a homeless family, like those who've lost everything in our river-lands or Ukraine; as a victim or near-miss amidst the slaughter of innocents," he said.

Archbishop Fisher said Christmas marked the time people heard the voice of God for the first time, not in "fine words or solemn pageant" but in the cry of a baby.

"Out of cries of helplessness comes the sound of hope. Out of hunger, cold, discomfort, the most beautiful sound ever heard," he said.

"Hope amidst flood, war, economic challenge: this hope is named Christmas and it can overcome the bleakest challenges."

Melbourne Anglican archbishop Philip Freier said violence and hatred had long beset the world, and this year had been no different with the war in Ukraine and "starvation, persecution, the dire effects of climate change".

"The psalmist is aware of such realities, but not deterred by them," he said.

"There is still beauty and goodness, none more so than God's decisive intervention in human history in the birth of Jesus the messiah, the Christmas story."

Uniting Church in Australia president the Rev Sharon Hollis used her Christmas message to urge followers to "build unity and seek truth" in the new year as the country prepared for a referendum on introducing an Indigenous voice to parliament.

"Soon, as a nation, we will be invited to shine light into the darkness of our colonial past and present," she said.

Ms Hollis said adding to the challenges many were facing was the soaring cost of living, from which the poor and vulnerable bore the greatest cost.

"This Christmas, many will go without a basic meal, let alone festive food," she said.

"The good news of the Christmas story is that the light of Christ enters into the darkness."

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