By NICOLE WINFIELD and PETER SMITH
Christmas has arrived around the world amid a surge in COVID-19 infections that kept many families apart, overwhelmed hospitals and curbed religious observances. Yet there were homilies of hope Saturday as vaccines and other treatments become more available. Pope Francis used his Christmas address to pray for vaccines to reach poor countries. Many U.S. churches canceled in-person services while others reported small but significant attendance. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth urged people everywhere to celebrate with friends and family. Some families saw empty chairs at dinner tables after airlines canceled flights as the omicron variant jumbled schedules and reduced staffing.