The leaders of the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales have reflected on the “darkness” of Covid-19 – as well as selfless and heroic responses to the pandemic.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is expected to refer to a “year of anxiety” in his Christmas message.
At Midnight Mass at Westminster Cathedral, Cardinal Vincent Nichols talked of a “quiet heroism”.
Despite enhanced rules, communal acts of worship are being allowed in the UK.
However, some churches have chosen to live-stream their Christmas Day services without a congregation.
Midnight Mass at Westminster Cathedral is normally one of the highlights of the liturgical calendar but this year, the service was held online-only and started at 22:00 GMT.
In his sermon, Cardinal Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, said: “In the darkness of this pandemic so many of our comfortable assumptions are being shaken.
“Here we are, celebrating Christmas, yet deprived of the greetings, hugs, kisses and handshakes that normally fill this day.”
He said the pandemic had tested family bonds, and that some people in care homes and hospitals who longed to see loved ones “fade away from sheer loneliness”.
But Cardinal Nichols maintained that countless acts of kindness had “penetrated the darkness”.
“Have we not seen these months of difficulty marked by countless acts of random kindness, quiet heroism, selfless service, remarkable community efforts, all directed towards those most in need?”
The Archbishop of Canterbury will deliver his Christmas message later, towards the end of what he is expected to say has been a year which has changed a cough and a fever into a “genuine threat”.
But he will ask Christians to resist the temptation to view the virus as the pivot of their lives, a kind of “before and after”.