I was stuck at a tire repair shop this week, waiting for a leaky tire to be diagnosed. Alas, the leak was too great and a new tire had to be purchased. While I waited, I stumbled upon The Great British Baking Show’s holiday episode. What joy! Four former contestants returned to compete in three Christmas-themed baking challenges.
One contest was to make holiday cake pops. This peaked my non-baker’s interest, as I have always wondered how they are made. Do they use a special ball-shaped form? A muffin pan made of perfect spheres? Do they bake cake into thick squares and then sculpt them into neat balls and stick a lollipop stick in the bottom?
Well I was stunned. None of these methods are how you make a cake pop. Lo and behold, you bake a regular pan or sheet cake and then MASH IT UP when the cake is cool. Then you take the mashed-up cake and mix it with…wait for it…buttercream frosting. Then you scoop it into your buttered hands, shape it into lollipop-sized balls, shove a stick in the bottom, and frost.
The things you learn at the tire shop.
Today’s passage from John 1 is a little like me watching how cake pops are made.
What exactly are we looking at? What weird mashup of things has created what we are seeing? The people were confused. They saw a man named John who was baptizing people, so they assumed him to be the messiah. Little did they know what was really going on.
John 1 (The Message)
19-20 When Jews from Jerusalem sent a group of priests and officials to ask John who he was, he was completely honest. He didn’t evade the question. He told the plain truth: “I am not the Messiah.”
21 They pressed him, “Who, then? Elijah?”
“I am not.”
22 Exasperated, they said, “Who, then? We need an answer for those who sent us. Tell us something—anything!—about yourself.”
23 “I’m thunder in the desert: ‘Make the road straight for God!’ I’m doing what the prophet Isaiah preached.”
24-25 Those sent to question him were from the Pharisee party. Now they had a question of their own: “If you’re neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet, why do you baptize?”
26-27 John answered, “I only baptize using water. A person you don’t recognize has taken his stand in your midst. He comes after me, but he is not in second place to me. I’m not even worthy to hold his coat for him.”
A person you don’t recognize has come to save you. He is in your midst.
Did you ever stop to think that you encountered Jesus in someone, but didn’t recognize him? Did a loving pastor, grandparent, teacher, youth worker, friend, parent, stranger, etc. show you a moment of unexpected grace, startling unconditional love, or unwarranted mercy in such a way that later you recognized that they were being Jesus to you in that moment?
A cake pop isn’t really a round ball of cake. John isn’t really the messiah. That person wasn’t really Jesus. But when you had that moment with them, you were ushered into the Light.
Go and be someone’s unexpected light today.