We know the end of the first Advent story, a story which leads ultimately to the first Easter. Precisely because we know what happens, I think it can sometimes appear odd to us that we are supposed to spend advent in hopeful anticipation: to anticipate and hope after something that has already happened seems to bend time, requires us to think in ways we do not normally think. It requires a certain amount of imagination to place ourselves outside of time in this way.
The Celtic Christians, I am told, used to have a concept of 'thin places'- such as the seaside, the mountain top, a clearing in a forest- where the boundaries between our world and the heavenly world seemed somehow 'thinner'. In these places, heaven and the divine were almost tangible, and they called immediately for prayer and devotion.
In the same way that certain places can be thin, making us acutely aware of the transcendant, I would like to suggest that times, too, can be thin. I think the rhythm of the Church calendar is woven around these 'thin times', times in the year when we are called upon to remember and take part in the Church's story, to participate in the divine in some way.
As we consciously live out the Advent story, the boundaries between our world and the heavens seem somehow to have thinned. It is a time of hope for all of the world today, just as it was at the first Christmas; the ripples of that great and imaginative hope still echo throughout creation, and in the season of Advent they reach out to us with both a promise and an invitation: the invitation to imagine a different world, and the promise of a hope that endures down the ages.