Feliz Dia de Reyes everyone! Today, the Hispanic culture celebrates the day that the three kings came to visit Jesus. The first time I celebrated this holiday was in Spanish class my senior year, in which we spent the entire year basically doing cultural and border studies which was…really amazing. I’ve celebrated in one way or another every year since. One of the ways that much of the Hispanic world celebrates today is by eating this amazing cake kind of thing called Rosca de Reyes. It’s basically a very sweet bread cake kind of thing, with a twist. They cook a plastic baby Jesus inside of the cake. Yes. You read that right.
Look at the picture up there. A little plastic baby Jesus, except typically he’s hidden inside the cake. So you have no idea who is going to get sweet plastic baby Jesus. Tradition says that if you get the baby Jesus, you’re considered blessed, and you host a party for your family on February 2nd which is the end of the Christmas season for most of the Hispanic world. Usually, there are tamales or pozole, or just food depending on how the group you’re celebrating with does it. The knife used to cut the Rosca represents the danger Jesus faced when Herod ordered all the babies be killed, and Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled to Egypt.
I will say here that I am not Hispanic so I won’t claim that any of these feelings or ideas I share represent the majority of the culture or anything, because I don’t know that. All I can do is speak from my experiences of celebrating this with various people.
What I’ve found is no one wants the baby Jesus. No one. In fact, as the cake gets cut, and people get their piece they actually cringe in fear HOPING and PRAYING that this plastic Jesus figurine isn’t in their piece of Rosca. I do the exact same thing. I don’t want to host a party. I can’t make tamales but I have many friends who can and that takes HOURS.
But why are we so afraid of something that’s supposed to be a blessing? And I will say that whenever I go somewhere that I’m sharing food with others it is a blessing. We have a whole holiday centered around it in the United States called Thanksgiving. Sharing food is an inherently spiritual experience (at least for me). You have to make sure you have enough but also that others have enough. And blessing people with food is a really amazing experience as well. Pondering all of this, in conjunction with this chapter in the lens of fear made me wonder the following:
Why do we fear the things that actually can bless us the most?
You’d think that a letter to the Dursley’s talking about how a school was going to cart Harry off for the majority of the year, with no obligation to come home during the holidays would be a huge blessing for them. They didn’t want him around anyway because he was a freak in their eyes. Not the norm. It’s clear to people rereading that Vernon does know exactly what is in these letters. He tells Petunia that they swore they would stamp it out. How often do we let what we irrationally fear, eclipse something that’s giving us exactly what we need or even have desired for so long?
I think we fear losing control more than anything, and that’s pretty standard across the board. Vernon fears being able to see exactly what Harry’s doing so he knows he’s not doing magic. I fear losing hours of my “precious” time to prepare a meal for people that I love because I had no control over whether a piece of plastic shaped like Jesus was in my Rosca.
But through this letter, the Dursley’s see less and less of Harry over the years, and can basically regain the “normal” life they’ve always wanted. I get to take pride in the fact that I made food and brought people together to celebrate Jesus’s birth and escape from Herod! Why does that always get eclipsed though?
Fear is strong, and a powerful emotion. The enemy knows that, and I believe, uses that to his advantage. We’re told repeatedly throughout the Bible that we shouldn’t be fearful because we have God on our side. We see examples like in Genesis 15:1 that God will protect us. Genesis 46:3 God will not forget us. 1 John 4:18 Love drives fear away. But that doesn’t make it any less real of an emotion, does it?
I imagine Mary and Joseph, escaping to Egypt. They couldn’t have not been scared. At least, in my mind there’s no way that they didn’t have a little bit of fear. They’re transporting their newborn son to another country in an attempt to save him from Herod executing him and finding him. This baby that they’d already been through so much to protect him and even to have him. That doesn’t mean however that they didn’t trust God to get them there. I find sometimes I meditate more on “Protect me, Father” when I’m in those moments of being totally fearful. I know He is right there beside me. Holding onto me and letting me know that it’s okay, He’s there. He’s protecting me. Never invalidating my feelings. Never telling me to just stop being scared. Comforting me. Especially when fear is valid.
Today I resolve to not be afraid when I cut into my Rosca (if I can find some, I’m not back in Los Angeles where I knew where to find some). I resolve to just enjoy the bread, enjoy the company, and welcome whatever blessing the Lord decides to throw my way. Whether through sweet bread, a letter, a plastic baby Jesus, or something else entirely.