Advent is the liturgical season leading up to Christmas. The first Sunday in Advent marks the beginning of the church year, and one of those lovely times when the Church actively encourages playing with fire by telling us to use an advent wreath in our personal devotions.
I'm sure you can tell, I really like playing with fire. The catch is that we only get to light one candle a week. It's one candle in addition to the candle we lit before, but it's still only one candle a week. This isn't to say we can't play with other types of FIRE but it it does limit us on that Advent wreath.
Advent is about waiting for the second coming of Christ by preparing to celebrate the first coming of Christ. The word means the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event, so you can use it in a non-churchy way. Think, the advent of smart phones foretold the death of uninterrupted meaningful conversations.
There are other types of advent calenders for people with attention spans, ones where you eat a single chocolate a day, ones where you open little windows on a picture. My favorite is still the wreath, because technically you only have to mess with it once a week if your life is crazy busy like mine.
At St. Matthew's, we use Rite I during Eucharist for Advent. For the uninitiated, Rite I is the more penitential rite while rite II is modern, i.e. language developed several years before I was born and ratified by the Episcopal church for publication in 1979. (Like all churches, we love and hate change and make a big fuss when something new comes along for at least the next 40 years.)
Advent has traditionally been viewed a 'little lent' or a less draconian version of what happens in the forty days before Easter that causes all of your friends from liturgical church to turn into psychos because they choose to abstain from caffeine. That's right, it's a choice. Feel free to hit them on the head for choosing a fast that instead of bringing them closer to God makes them more likely to commit homicide. Modern life seems to strive to make this impossible, but we're invited to slow down, watch and pray and spend more time with God in this season.
If all else fails, I'm going to play with fire some more.