Archive: 2019 | 2018
Yeah, ainít that too bad ... Edith Bunker
January 6th, 2019
Peanut butter ... just crazy about peanut butter ... love it, just love it ... by itself,
with jam, jelly, preserves ... but most of all, with butter and raisins! Now, what I don’t
understand is this. I’ve never found anyone who liked this combination as much as I do.
In fact, I never found anyone who didn’t just turn his nose up and walk away. I’ve known
those who have such an attitude but never hesitate to pile the sliced bananas on their
peanut butter sandwich. Yuk! I have difficulty think about that. How can this be? The
very same reality, peanut butter and raisins, peanut butter and bananas, can be
experienced by different people in totally different ways. That’s no secret! We all know
that. And it happens on both significant and insignificant levels. Matthew tells us that it
happens in our responding to God, in our responding to the gift of life in Jesus Christ.
This is Epiphany Sunday, epiphany meaning unfolding, disclosure. Matthew is
saying that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem is God’s disclosure of himself to humankind,
in the babe in the manger and the man on the cross. God’s love for us is fully and finally
disclosed. Matthew uses the occasion of the visit of the wisemen to underscore the
affirmation that God’s love is for all people, not just for Jews. So, you see, a division, a
dichotomy, is set up: what is the response to the birth of the child? First, pagans from
the east come a long way to offer homage and worship the child; and second, horror
and hostility from Herod, the Jewish king. Yes, same reality, the child and two very
What is Matthew trying to say? Namely, that God offers us the ability to change,
to turn around, to do things differently. Some accept that invitation, while others turn or
walk, or run away from it. Now Herod was frightened because the birth of the child
meant the death of everything that was important to the king, and all his priorities would
have been turned upside down. Perhaps the wisemen in their own way, saw their own
death in the gift of life from the Christ. The poet T. S. Eliot captures hold of this twist in
his poem, Journey of the Magi. One of the wisemen now older in years and richer in
experience, recalls their journey across sand-blown wastelands. He says:
A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And now, thinking and remembering, he faces the ultimate level and says,
All this was a long time ago, I remember
And I would do it again, but set down,
This set down,
This: we were led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen
Birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
Eliot has found the essence of it. Listen one more time:
... this birth as hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death. Eliot has seen that we
have to give up something, we have to leave something of ourselves behind, if we are
to be blessed by the gift of God in the manger at Bethlehem.
So, this is where we find ourselves, hopefully in the drama of the Epiphany and
the arrival of the wisemen. For, if we view the gifts and homage of the Magi from a
different perspective, we can see Matthew is calling for us to offer the Christ child our
very lives, our total selves. The traditional and symbolic meaning of these gifts of the
visitors from the east, gold for the king, frankincense for the priest, and myrrh for the
dying savior, are not the only meanings for the gifts. Gold, frankincense and myrrh were
also the common tools-of-the trade in those days for magi, magicians, and astrologers.
And seen from this perspective, those gifts represented the very lives of those who
came across the desert.
In other words, for us the acceptance of God’s gift of life in Christ means that we
will give him back our lives, all that we have and all that we are. In other words,
commitment! And how we need a new year filled with people who have made such a
commitment to God’s Bethlehem gift.
In one of the All in the Family episodes, Edith and Archie are attending Edith’s
high school class reunion. Edith encounters an old classmate, named Buck, who has
allowed himself to become extremely obese. Edith and Buck have a delightful
conversation about old times and the things they did together, but remarkably, Edith
doesn’t seem to even notice how extremely heavy Buck has become. Later, Edith and
Archie are talking. She says, Archie, ain’t Buck a beautiful person? Archie replies, Edith,
I’ll never figure you out. You and I can look at the same guy, and you see a beautiful
person and I see a blimp. And Edith says, simply, Yeah, ain’t that too bad. Edith is really
one of the world’s wise people, able to see others from a new perspective, able to
reflect the love of Christ in her treatment of others. Well, how about us?
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