Australia's church leaders have overwhelmingly offered Christmas messages of unity and resilience in the face of the pandemic.
Normally concerned exclusively with promoting spiritual goodwill on December 25, leading clerics have urged people to treat one another with graciousness, acceptance and generosity as COVID-19 continues to disrupt lives.
Anglican archbishop of Adelaide, Geoffrey Smith says doing so is vital as society becomes more vexed and polarised.
"The vaxers versus anti-vaxers, climate change activists versus sceptics, state and federal governments divided over COVID response, increasing global tensions, issues of honesty and integrity in our leaders, and the list goes on," he said.
"There is a lot of stress in the world right now (but) into this world God continues to speak his message of love."
Reverend Smith says it's "hugely important we treat each other respectfully and focus on what is good for others".
"The simple story of a baby in a manger is dismissed by many, yet it continues to be a light of hope that shines eternal as it is the birth of God in human form, coming to us in love."
Australian Catholic Bishop's Conference president Mark Coleridge says coming together as families, friends and communities is "more important than ever in a time of pandemic when isolation and separation have hit hard".
However, the archbishop of Brisbane also stressed that "Christmas celebrates the overcoming of the most fundamental separation of all, the sundering of heaven and earth, God and humanity".
Reverend Rob Nyhuis, who is chair of the Council of the Churches of Christ in Australia, said Christmas encouraged people to look back to better enable them to then look forward.
"The coming of Jesus 2000 years ago was to a world seeking freedom but, today, people are still looking for a better tomorrow, especially in rebuilding after COVID," he said.
"It is when we look to circumstances and people for improvement, though, that we often remain anxious and disappointed. Our greatest hope comes to our world from beyond it."
While grateful to those who have helped thwart the spread of COVID, Uniting Church president Sharon Hollis says she worries for the poorest who are suffering most.
"Many are concerned about the wellbeing of our young people and worry about our older friends and family, particularly those in aged care," she said.
"I am frustrated about the lack of equitable distribution of vaccines around the world and watch as the call of First Nations for Voice, Treaty, Truth falls on deaf ears in the land we call Australia."
For Australian Christian Churches National President Wayne Alcorn, Christmas represents a search for peace in the midst of turbulent times.
"Our prayer is that Christmas 2021 will be a time when people everywhere will embrace the presence, the person and the power of the son of God; that every heart may experience the real peace that is in Jesus Christ," he said.
Australian Associated Press