Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu calls for greater compassion for the poor in his final Chistmas Day sermon

The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, pictured on the steps of York Minster, after his last Christmas Service today.
The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, pictured on the steps of York Minster, after his last Christmas Service today.
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The Archbishop of York called for greater compassion for those in poverty as he delivered his final Christmas Day sermon.

Dr John Sentamu used his last Christmas Day sermon before retiring in June next year to reflect on the need to remember those on the margins of society.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby during the Christmas Day service at Canterbury Cathedral.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby during the Christmas Day service at Canterbury Cathedral.

He asked worshippers at York Minster to recall powerful image of the birth of Christ.

Dr Sentamu said: "The birth of Jesus wedded heavenly glory and earthly poverty. Consequently, no one dare despise the poor, the needy, those on the margins of society, since the Son of God was born in a stable and cradled in a feeding trough."

He added: "The King of Glory stoops to the lowest and the same time gloriously uplifts the lowly (Joseph & Mary) and those on the margins (the shepherds), to share his glory. Glory and

humility, meekness and majesty! So let us adore Him.

"The shepherds give a perfect example of a faithful response to God’s intrusion in our lives.

"These risk takers teach us that the good news isn’t to be kept for ourselves. Go and tell joyfully that the saviour is nearer than our breath."

Dr Sentamu steps down next year after since assuming the role of the Archbishop of York in 2005, and will be replaced by Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford.

The Archbishop of Canterbury delivered a similar message during his Christmas Day sermon.

Justin Welby used his sermon to reflect on the maltreatment of society's most vulnerable, as well as the impact of violence at home and abroad, including the London Bridge terror attack last month.

He told worshippers at Canterbury Cathedral that darkness is a "monster that lies" before referring to the killings of 25-year-old Jack Merritt and 23-year-old Saskia Jones by Usman Khan.

During his address, the archbishop also spoke about his trip to Beni, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has suffered an outbreak of the Ebola virus.

He said: "Darkness is a monster that lies. Its growling claims seem to call out with a louder volume than the love-filled whispers of light. We see the shadows out of the corner of our eyes.

"They may be violence, as in the Congo or on London Bridge; they may be political.

"They may be purely personal, from family feuds, relationship problems, illness.

"The darkness within us that sometimes seems to threaten our certainty and hope. And whether solid or illusion, they are the reality with which we live."

Mr Welby also highlighted that the message of Jesus Christ was first revealed to the poorest, adding: "He did not come to the wealthy".

The spiritual leader of the Church of England went on: "In the presence of the light of Jesus Christ, dark is ultimately powerless. Light is all around us, invisible, untouchable.

"Dark presses in on our deep fears. Its reality is manipulated by those who stir fear for their own purposes, both within and outside the life of the church.

"It was to the poorest that the first testimony of Jesus came, to shepherds on a hill, in the angel-broken dark. It was to Jesus's own poor family that the rich Magi came, knowing that the light of Christ was the only hope that had reality.

"When we neglect the poor, the weak, when we judge those different to ourselves rather than love, when we do things to people - not with them - we defy the example of the light of life, Jesus himself, who in love came to them, with the poorest and most vulnerable.

"He did not come to the wealthy. The true light that is Jesus brings hope.

"Receive his light; it is there to be received. Feast on life and love, even when all else is dark and grey.

"And so, being filled with the hope of Christ, let us as God's people show the dark that its pretensions are vain, for the true light has come into the world."