by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters, January 2014


January marks a new year and for many the beginning of a personal journey of self improvement. New Years resolutions abound! Just don’t forget the journey that we began together in Advent. During Advent we anticipated the birth of the Christ child. At Christmas, we celebrated the good news of Jesus’ birth, along with those first responders, the shepherds. But, the story doesn’t end there. During this season, called Epiphany, we celebrate the journey toward faith in Christ. We will remember the journey of the Magi, Jesus’ baptism by John, and the revelation of Jesus to his eventual disciples, each moments of discerning the identity of Jesus, each a moment of discovery.

There are many ways to mark this time spiritually, from moments of prayer and pilgrimage to simpler, and sometimes silly, traditions like that of baking a king cake. The season reminds us to seek and discover the presence of Jesus, even in unlikely places. King cakes are typically associated with the end of the Epiphany season and the celebration of Mardi Gras; others celebrate the beginning of the season by baking a cake. In this delectable tradition, a figurine of the Christ child is hidden and baked into the cake or pastry. Children and adults alike gather to symbolically search for the baby Jesus, by cutting and consuming the cake. The person who finds the baby Jesus in their piece hosts the celebration the following year.

A few years ago, Amber and John Essick cut into the king cake only to discover that each of them had a little Jesus figurine in their piece. They looked around the room and watched as six others discovered the baker’s happy accident. During the baking of the cake, a number of Jesus figures fell into the mix. Not knowing what to do, the shop decorated and sold these king cakes baked with an unknown number of kings. As each person cut into the cake, there was a greater anticipation that they, too, would find Jesus in their piece.
Epiphany invites this kind of anticipation. Be expectant. Seek Jesus and find Christ. Don’t let Hallmark determine your spiritual calendar. Live into this time of discovery.