OK--Advent has become probably my favorite time of year since I converted to Catholicism. (I guess I'm technically a lapsed Catholic now?)
When I went through my conversion class, a lot of time was spent on Advent-and I think between Christmas and Lent/Easter period; this time gets short shrift. It was explained that Advent was the time of preparation for the feast of Christmas (actually 12 days BEGINNING on 12/25 and ending on Epiphany--ever heard of The 12 Days of Christmas???) In predom protestant and increasingly as "christian" becomes synonymous with evangelical-Advent is heard of less and less, with the exception of the cute calendars and perhaps an occasional advent wreath.
Advent is actually a wonderfully, beautiful time that modern Christians, and Americans could benefit from. Christmas was never meant to be celebrated as the "birthday" of Jesus. Rather it was the official festival where the birth of Christ was celebrated. The difference is not just semantics. When early Christian(Catholic) fathers were growing the faith, it was not uncommon for secular holidays to get hijacked and "rebranded" as Christian feast days. The winter solstice is a virtual "whos's who" of religious holidays-most involving light. Why? It is the darkest, shortest day of the year--what better way to deal with this than celebrating figurative "lights" piercing the darkness. This was the mindset when the day was chosen to celebrate the arrival of Christ into the world.
Advent is the 4 week period prior to December 25th. Each week the believer is supposed to draw closer to God in anticipation of the coming of the Christ symbolically into their life again. Each week there are special readings and lighting of candles that is climaxed by the lighting of the "Christ Candle" on Christmas Eve at midnight.
It would do a lot of Christians good to remember the concept and preparation of Advent instead of touting cliche's like "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" or ranting about the war on Christmas. Perhaps, if evangelicals spent more time in self-reflection and the coming of Christ into their personal lives; then maybe they, their church, and all of us would be better off. Maybe if we all spent time in self-reflection on what it means to be light in the darkness, we'd all be better off as well.