Dr Glenn Davies new Anglican Archbishop of Sydney.

''What is it about our society that 'selfie' is the landmark word for 2013?'': Dr Glenn Davies, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney. Photo: Jacky Ghossein

Sydney's Christian leaders have turned to Oxford Dictionaries' word of the year and Time magazine's person of the year in their annual Christmas messages.

''What is it about our society that 'selfie' is the landmark word for 2013?'' said Dr Glenn Davies in his first year as Sydney's Anglican Archbishop.

''At Christmas time we should remember that there is an ultimate self-image, the image of God, which far outweighs the supercilious picture of a face filling our screen. We are all stamped with the image of God and it is this image that makes us precious in his sight.''

Dr Davies said the Christmas image of Jesus as a ''cute and inoffensive'' baby in a stall was only part of the picture.

''Christmas without Easter is not the full story,'' he said. ''We fail to appreciate Christmas if we fail to appreciate the reason why he came - to suffer death upon a cross on Good Friday, rise again on Easter Day so that the bonds of death may be broken and new life become a reality for all who put their trust in him.''

In a year marked by inquiries delving into the Australian church's handling of child sexual abuse, Sydney's Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, urged Christians to keep the faith. ''We acknowledge the wide scepticism and occasional hostility of those around us, but because we know Christ, we should have the courage of our convictions, we should not lapse into timid silence and we should not be frightened to appear as different,'' Cardinal Pell said.

He called on Catholics to recall the messages of the man Time dubbed ''The People's Pope''.

''Our new Pope Francis has warned us of these dangers, urging us not to lapse into small-minded melancholy, not allow ourselves to be submerged by bitterness and fatigue.'' Cardinal Pell said ''crimes and sins'' could not eliminate the ''good works of the spirit''. ''The cross remains a symbol of victory, especially in our hectic and confused times,'' he said.

The Pope claimed the church's challenge was not atheism, Cardinal Pell continued, but ''how best to respond to the many adults and children thirsting for God''.

''Christians cannot answer this challenge if we look like we have just come from a funeral,'' he said.

Reverend Dr Keith Garner, the head of the Wesley Mission, said it would be easy to be overwhelmed by events at home and abroad.

''This Christmas we need to receive God's love into our hearts, exchange selfishness for forgiveness and breathe peace into a restless world,'' he said.