The hope of advent seems a long way off against the backdrop of war, famine and disaster. That’s where lament comes in, says Tim Farron MP



I’ve got my Christmas tree, I’ve put the lights up and we have, as a family, decided it is now acceptable to watch Christmas films. We’ve already had weeks of tedious controversy over the content of various Christmas adverts and then, last week, we had a deluge of incredibly festive weather that brought with it chaos and hardship to many of my communities in Cumbria. A reminder that some things can look magical at first sight, but be less so in reality.

Advent is thrilling, but what it points us to is a reality that is epic beyond measure. It’s a story rooted in eyewitness testimony. Here, we are talking about hard history, not a feel-good festive fable.

Jesus can take our wordless groans and audible cries and turn them into action

And what better way to mark this reality than an advent calendar offering indulgent treats behind each door, ranging – depending on your budget - from chocolate to Lego, or whisky to perfume.

Of course, the massive Christmas build-up is all a way of maximising the profits of a hugely commercial and secular festival. But as Christians focusing on the coming of Christ, we can use this time to reflect on the importance of Advent itself - and as an opportunity to share the truth about Jesus.

Prayerful expectation

Advent is a season where we are called to be alert and watchful, waiting in prayer and expectation.

We recall the moment when God personally entered into his messy, sinful world – his beautiful creation that had been turned upside down by hate, greed and human selfishness – and began to turn it the right way up again.

Our hope lies in the promise that the helpless baby laid in the animal trough will one day return in glorious triumph to judge and restore all things. In the words of Revelation 21:4: “He will wipe every tear from (our) eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” We may remember the birth of a baby at Christmas, but we don’t leave him in that manger; we follow him all the way to the cross and beyond.

So we look forward with joy to the fulfilment of his new order. But we also feel the tension between the promise and the present reality of our fallen world.


Our news continues to be full of war, famine, death and destruction. This year, this tension is especially painful: the very place in which Jesus was born and from which this great hope of peace sprang – the Middle East – is caught up in the most appalling conflict that shows no sign of ending soon.

How do we reconcile the fact of Jesus’ birth and the promise of restoration with the brokenness all around us?

Lament can be part of our response to injustice and horror; the idea that Jesus can take our wordless groans and our audible cries and turn them into action. He invites us to take part in his process of bringing justice and peace. He wants us to act as his hands and feet to combat injustice and despair.

Into the light

Often we just take small steps, using what he has given us to work for change in the communities where he has placed us. But every small step pierces another pinprick of light into the darkness.

At the first Christmas, the dazzling brightness of the angels on the hillside hinted at the vast potential of the light contained within this tiny baby, born into a dark corner of the ancient world, to a people living under Roman occupation.

Our hope lies in the promise that the baby will one day return in glorious triumph

The hope that we hold onto today is that the darkness we still see around us will be shattered and banished forever.

So let’s try and grasp that as we enter the Advent season, and let’s pray together one of the Church of England’s Advent prayers:

Come to your Church as Lord and judge. Help us to live in the light of your coming and give us a longing for your kingdom.

Come to your world as King of the nations. Before you rulers will stand in silence.

Come to the suffering as Saviour and comforter. Break into our lives, where we struggle with sickness and distress, and set us free to serve you for ever.

Maranatha: Amen.

Come, Lord Jesus.