The Archbishop of York celebrated Christmas Day saying “let us feed those who hunger” and “let us give shelter to the homeless”.

Dr John Sentamu told the congregation at York Minster: “God works through human agents to achieve his purposes. So let us feed those who hunger with the bread come down from heaven.

“Let us give shelter to the homeless with him who could find no room in the inn. Let us welcome him into the inn of our lives, so we might be fully alive, fully human again.”

Dr Sentamu said Christ's birth meant “religious beliefs were translated out of words into humanity, life and spirit, out of the intellect into the simple impulses of the soul”.

He said: “His rule is characterised by everlasting justice and righteousness, instead of the ruthless greed and exploitation which prevailed when he was born and is prevailing now in our global village.

“In God’s eyes, the quality of our relationships is more important than the rightness of our convictions.

“Sadly, as followers of Jesus Christ, we are often bad at learning how to disagree, but we do need to remain in harmony. We must ‘make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace’ – as St Paul says in Ephesians 4:3. If we cannot experience and demonstrate the reality of this in Christ, what have we to offer to the rest of society, with its fractured relationships?”

Earlier, in a pre-Christmas message for soldiers serving overseas and their families, Dr Sentamu warned defence cuts “risk the safety of the nation and the peace of the world”.