By Ana Lopez
Do not get the plastic baby Jesus. I repeatedly told myself.
See, according to this cultural tradition, if you get the plastic baby Jesus you celebrate by hosting a party a month later. At the party, guests are expecting to be served homemade tamales, and
as much as I love tamales I do not know how to make them from scratch.
My mom made Mexican hot chocolate and all of the family gathered around our dining table. It is a tradition to cut the oval shaped, sweet King's cake, the Rosca de Reyes, in our home with our close friends and family each year on the feast of the Epiphany. Everyone looks on with anticipation and cheer as each person takes their turn to cut their own piece. My aunt was the most spirited of the family; she oohhed and ahhhed when it was others' turn, but secretly dreaded her own turn. When her turn was up, she cut a very small piece with confidence that she was in the clear, but when she placed it on her plate, we all turned towards the Rosca and saw the hand of the plastic baby Jesus. We all began shouting“you got it, you got baby Jesus,” but she shook her head in dismissal covering up her piece. We reveled in the irony with loud laughter. "Fine, she said giving in, "but I will order the tamales, not make them myself."
Often the things we least expect happen to us.
Growing up celebrating the story of the three kings, I was always attracted to the star that guided the them to Jesus. I wondered how it was that these magi of the East knew about the Jewish people and of the coming of Jesus. Were they astronomers, Kings, magicians? I wondered what they were seeking when they looked out into the dark sky. How big and bright must this star have been for them to trust it? I wondered who these men were that carry treasures and journey to foreign lands because of one star.
I wondered what they had to gain in refusing to cooperate with Herod, King of Judah, and laying down offerings before Jesus.
I wonder because thinking comes so natural to me. Too often it takes me hours to decide what I want to eat for dinner, and I hesitate making a life decision because I want to make sure I have a solid plan first. What I have learned is that it stems from fear--what if I fail, what if I make the “wrong” choice. Knowing keeps me in control but the "what-ifs" keep me stuck in the questions and ultimately distracts me from what I actually desire. I look out to God with my questions but the fear keeps me in the dark stuck with my questions in my head.
“Go and search diligently for the child,” Herod told the magi.
Now, the more I ponder on the wise men, the more I come to realize who Jesus is. Whoever they were--with their questions, treasures, and status--Jesus was their end goal.
They trusted the star because they knew it was leading them to Jesus. I imagine the beauty they encountered in the manger which led them to prostrate themselves in adoration. God revealed Godself to them in the most humble of places in one of the most intimate of ways--as a vulnerable child in the arms of his mother. That is who we celebrate this Epiphany and that is who I seek. Jesus, whose light does not discriminate in drawing all of us toward him. They remind me to stop overthinking and to start trusting
to let go of searching for answers and to find Jesus in the beauty of the moment as it is unfolding before me.
This Epiphany as I ponder on the foreigners who traveled to a distant land to pay homage to a King in a manger, I am invited to see the magi in the world today. All of those who are traveling to foreign lands in search of safety, life, happiness, and love. And I feel called, as the star impels us, to search for Him diligently. I am reminded by the magi to trust the light and focus on Jesus, not the questions. And when I find him, to receive him joyfully and to worship him with all of my heart.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ana is a California girl who loves a good book and fair cup of coffee. She is currently pursuing a Master's in Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley where she has fallen in love with Ignatian Spirituality. Her faith and her family are the foundations of her life on, and what she cannot live without. If you don't find her breaking bread with friends, you can find her in the library studying for her comprehensive exams.