The Church leaders in Ireland have spoken of their hopes at this important time in the Christian calendar.
PRESBYTERIAN MODERATOR DR ROB CRAIG:
"Among all the many gifts which will be purchased, wrapped and exchanged in the Christmas season, is there any more necessary than the gift of peace? Be it in our political and civic life, or in our personal and family life, peace is the prize for which we are longing."
CHURCH OF IRELAND PRIMATE DR RICHARD CLARKE:
"The Gospel stories of Christmas are about deprivation, hardship, danger and defencelessness.
"If we were to look closer still at the biblical stories of the Nativity, we see that they are saying startlingly contemporary things to every community and to every individual, the most important of which is that we all matter, regardless of who or what we are or what we have."
CHURCH OF IRELAND BISHOP OF DERRY KEN GOOD:
"During Advent and Christmas we are encouraged to look up, to lift our gaze beyond our own troubles and anxieties, so that we come to see our lives as part of that much bigger picture, that far larger purpose, God's richer canvas.
"Taking the initiative in reaching out across barriers that divide, taking a risk in being vulnerable and open to rejection, being willing to offer forgiveness and reconciliation, to extend the hand of friendship – even when one's motivation or one's initiative is rejected.
"These are the key issues that we are grappling with, and I believe, have made further progress with in 2013."
METHODIST PRESIDENT DR HEATHER MORRIS:
"The message of Christmas is not soft and sweet. It is love and it is real, earthed, demanding, challenging, a truth which if taken seriously cannot leave us the same.
"The problem is that we know this, we are inoculated with just enough of the message of Christmas for us to hear it, and shrug and do nothing. But Christmas disturbs our comfort, propels us out into the world rather than insulating us.
"Christmas demands that we speak and act on issues like sectarianism, racism, the violence in our shops, streets and hearts."
CATHOLIC BISHOP OF DOWN AND CONNOR DR NOEL TREANOR:
"The birth of God as a human person, uniting the divine and the human, offers new hope, new purpose, new perspectives to suffering humanity. Christmas is the dawn of that new hope. Each generation is invited to make that hope its own and to enact its dynamic in worship, prayer and Christian action. Christmas is the feast of the barrier-breaking promise by God to humanity. The Word was made flesh and made His tent among us."
THE ARCHBISHOP OF DUBLIN DR MICHAEL JACKSON:
"Christian teaching uses many different words to express the sense of what is special; peace and goodwill; incarnation and salvation, repentance and forgiveness. The peoples of the Phillipines are uppermost in our thoughts and prayers at Christmas 2013. They deserve a little forward planning and organisation in terms of generosity and giving, in this season of peace and goodwill."
CARDINAL SEAN BRADY:
In an interview with the Irish Independent the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland pleaded with dissident republicans "to respect the desire of the people of this country to live in peace".
He said: "I hope they continue to be thwarted because there is no appetite for violence or a return to violence in Northern Ireland. That is my view and it is shared by a lot of people. Any view of life that denies a person's humanity by reducing him or her to a 'legitimate target' offers no vision for the future."
PRESIDENT OF THE IRISH COUNCIL OF CHURCHES, REV FR GODFREY O'DONNELL:
"We, as churches in Ireland, are learning again how to prophetically voice and demonstrate our faith within the changing religious landscapes.
"It is not a time for withdrawal – rather there must be meaningful reflection and engagement with each other and with the communities around us. Churches can learn from their own experience of telling a powerful story, but need to renew their exploration of how to communicate the Christian narrative today."