23 December 2013
Last updated at 20:34 ET
David Cameron says the UK has made real progress in overcoming “the challenges we face”, in 2013.
In his Christmas message the prime minister also praised the volunteers, many of them Christians, who helped to build “what I call the big society”.
The building of a “big society” was a key part of his 2010 election campaign, but has been rarely mentioned recently.
In his message, Labour leader Ed Miliband also praised people who help others who are alone or homeless.
In his message issued by 10 Downing Street, Mr Cameron said: “Christmas gives us a space when we can consider the things that we value most – family, friends and fellowship. It is a time for being hopeful for the coming year and to reflect on the one that has passed.
“Looking back, 2013 has been a year when our country pulled together to overcome the challenges we face. Together we have made real progress on strengthening our economy and creating more decent jobs so that people can provide for their families. This progress is down to the efforts of millions who go out and work hard every day, putting in the hours, running businesses and keeping our economy going.
“And there are those millions who keep on strengthening our society too – being good neighbours, running clubs and voluntary associations, playing their part in countless small ways to help build what I call the big society. Many of these people are Christians who live out to the letter that verse in Acts, that `it is more blessed to give than to receive’.
“These people put their faith into action and we can all be grateful for what they do.”
He added that it had been a significant year for the Christian faith with a new Archbishop of Canterbury and a new Pope, both having “exciting plans to rejuvenate their respective churches, which should inspire Christians around the world”.
He went on: “For me, this season is also a time to think about the meaning of Christmas – the birth of Jesus Christ and the hope that gives to millions.”
He also praised servicemen and servicewomen “helping bring peace here and around the world; to their families who cannot be with them; and to all the dedicated men and women in the emergency and caring services who are working hard to support those in need this Christmas”.
In his Christmas message, Mr Miliband paid tribute to those who would be spending time caring for the lonely and the homeless.
“As Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, we should also take time to think of all those alone or suffering at this time of year,” he said.
“I would like to pay particular tribute to the many people, churches and charities who will be looking after those who are alone or homeless this Christmas time.
“We should also pay tribute to those who will be working so that the rest of us have an enjoyable break, especially our medical staff, our police and our armed forces, thank you for your service.”