Joy... and the Advent Buzzard
I first discovered the Advent Buzzard when I was serving a church in North Kansas City. I stopped by the pastor’s office in early December and noticed something new; a strange sock creature hanging in the doorway. “What on earth is that?” I asked my friend and mentor, the Rev. Katherine McClain. “Oh,” she said. “Let me tell you about the Advent Buzzard.”
According to Pastor Kate, who swears she didn’t make this up, the Advent Buzzard is a reminder that this time of year isn’t always great for everyone. Sometimes people are sad, lonely; grieving those whom they’ve lost. Others, who are poor, feel the shame of their poverty more pronounced, come Christmastime. And so, here’s how the Advent Buzzard becomes useful. Whenever you are feeling blue, or discouraged, you are supposed to give the buzzard a good whack. This disturbance signals the sock-bird to take on the darkness, so that the bereaved can let go of it, and welcome the light.
Since learning of this odd tradition, I’ve been completely hooked; enamored. At the last church I served we brought in old socks and made our own buzzards – for a couple years, anyway. Just yesterday I introduced St. Paul Lutheran to the Advent Buzzard. (He’s been with me long enough, I decided to name him “Buzzy.”)
Getting ready for Christmas is supposed to be a happy time. We eat fancy foods, we sing special songs, we shop for and receive gifts; we go to parties like nobody’s business. So, when we’re cradling non-festive feelings of loss, grief, loneliness – we can be a bit hard on ourselves. Everything’s wonderful. Why am I so down?
It’s for times such as these that an Advent Buzzard can come in handy. A solemn companion, who doesn’t say much, and welcomes affliction; emotional and physical. Go ahead and swat him, he can take it. He wants you to welcome the light.
I don’t know how you feel about this tradition; maybe it’s too off the wall for you. But that’s OK. The idea is to find something; some way to encounter joy. Maybe it’s prayer, meditation. But maybe you’re up for something else. Because it could involve smacking a legendary creature, crafted from a sock.