Christmas is time for caring and compassion
After all the hectic preparations, this is the eve of Christmas Day with its timeless message of peace and goodwill.
Sadly this Christmas has its own dark shadows, with continued trouble in the Middle East, famine and disease affecting millions in the developing world, and economic uncertainty, unemployment and hardship at home.
It would be easy to become depressed and disillusioned by such bad news.
Equally there is a danger that in the hectic consumer rush, the ordinary decencies of kindness and compassion are being crowded out.
One of the main themes of this year's Christmas messages from Church leaders is the need to re-discover that quality of care for our fellow human beings.
Archbishop Harper has urged people to build up a personal culture of kindness, and Cardinal Brady has expressed the wish that Ireland will become "a gentler, kinder, more compassionate, more caring and more neighbourly place."
Such words are important, though there is still much kindness in our community, despite the depressing headlines. During this week, for example, people of all backgrounds have been donating generously to the Black Santa sit-out at St Anne's Cathedral, which is always inspiring.
Christmas is also a difficult time for those who have lost loved ones, and others who face particular hardships of illness, homelessness and other major personal challenges.
In the face of such pain, worry and loss there is a special need for compassion from all of us.
Significantly, one of the central and unchanging messages of Christmas is the promise of peace and joy, which has found a resonance with so many people from Biblical times to the modern age.
This is a time for families, for sharing with relatives and friends, for hospitality to those who may otherwise feel lonely, and in general for living up to the best Christmas traditions which have been treasured in all ages.
There are certainly challenges ahead, but this is a weekend to enjoy the very best of Christmas, and all that it means to all of us.