I have journeyed through Advent this year with an unusual companion—a small brown spider that has taken up residence in our Advent wreath. I expect he came in on the cedar boughs my husband cut for me to arrange in a circle. He seems quite content with his new home, and each morning as I light the candles and read my Advent devotion, he goes to work on his web. I take a few minutes after my reading to reflect on the message and to watch him work.
Candles for hope, peace, joy and love have all been lit, but even before that, he made his home on the Christ candle. A couple of days ago when I revealed to my husband that I had been companioned by this small friend, it dawned on me the significance of his residence on the candle we will light on Christmas Eve, the candle that reminds us that the light of the world has come again. For what better place to live than in the presence of Christ?
Our analytical, reasonable selves might pooh-pooh the notion that a spider knows the difference between candles in an Advent wreath. One might explain his choice of dwelling place by noting that it’s the safest candle because it has not yet been lit. But because Truth is not always explainable by analysis, I choose to believe the wisdom of this spider.
The Celtic Christians knew that the creation is a revelatory text. Meister Eckhart observed “Every creature is a word of God. If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature—even a caterpillar—I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature.” St. Francis spoke of Brother Sun and Sister Moon. He knew a kinship with all creation.
The Psalmist speaks of sparrows who find a home in God’s house (Psalm 84:3). So is it really too far-fetched for me to share my Advent meditation with Brother Spider, to be preached to by his example of abiding close to the Light of the World?
My favorite Christmas carol is In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Rossetti. The final verse, which is my very favorite, wonders at what kind of gift to give to the Lord God. As I witness my little friend remaining close to the Christ candle, I am reminded that my heart—embodied in my devotion, attentiveness and presence—is the best gift I can give to the one who created me and my Advent companion.
And come Christmas Eve, before I light the Christ candle, I will be attentive to the presence of my Advent companion, to keep him safe as we both celebrate the coming of Christ!