Finding Him on Fat Tuesday

Feb 24

My mom grew up in New Orleans, so through the years of my childhood, we would often celebrate “Fat Tuesday” with a King Cake.  For the uninitiated, a king cake is a celebratory pastry eaten between Epiphany and Fat Tuesday, in honor of the Three Kings, as well as, on a practical note, to get all of the sugary goodness out of the house before the Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday.

A tiny, plastic baby Jesus is hidden inside the cake, and the one who unsuspectingly bites down on it has to bring the cake next year.  It’s funny, in re-evaluating this tradition, there’s less spiritual significance to it than I thought.  I suppose the eaters are in a way emulating the wise men’s search for the Christ child, but isn’t it funny how our minds often make a jump for significance in areas where it wasn’t necessarily intended.  Apparently, the “baby Jesus” in the cake came about as a result of an industrious traveling salesman having a surplus of porcelain dollhouse figurines (article here).  Nonetheless, the Lenten season has always been very nostalgic for us, particularly in the small group context, as it was the first experience we had that really plugged us into our church family nearly 7 years ago.  To that end, Katherine and I decided we would share this Southern tradition with our friends in a decidedly California way…

As you may have realized, any excuse we have to fit the word “Sprinkles” into a sentence (or further to fit a “Sprinkles” cupcake into our mouths), we will do it!  After picking up the cupcake/King Cake proxies, we went on the hunt for the Baby Jesus.  Side note, if you are ever looking for a tiny, plastic Baby Jesus, don’t look for one in Los Angeles.  As we popped into several shops and bakeries, like modern day wisemen (there were 3 of us, no less), we were met with quizzical stares and several “huhs?” in response to our request (which looking at it objectively, was honestly kind of a strange one).  All of a sudden, we had an “epiphany”–kind of a light shining down from above scenario.  Why don’t we use James’ precious porcelain baby Jesus from the nativity (here)?  This seemed like a perfectly good solution, but then the reality of one friend in particular voraciously devouring the baby or another choking on it gave us pause.  We finally decided to simplify the whole process and go old school, before there were salesman with a crate full of porcelain dolls or litigious plastic baby Jesus swallowers…

An almond.   Simple, innocuous, edible.  Basically, we ended up with a “King Cake” that had nothing to do with the tradition of the King Cake, but I suppose that is really a picture of the grace that we live in as Christians.  It’s not about exactly how we do it but the spirit in which we do it.  Thankfully, taking common elements and making them reminders of the most uncommon things is what Jesus does flawlessly.  As you enter this Lenten season, may you be humbly struck by all the sweet gifts you have graciously been given and may you find Jesus in some very unexpected places.

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