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Holy Mirth

Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” Genesis 21:1-6.

When you think about it, laughter is a pretty strange phenomenon. Aristotle claimed that only human beings laugh; and he was probably correct — the laughter-like sounds made by some animals are seemingly not the expression of joy that laughter is for human beings. And surely Sarah was correct too when she said that God had brought her laughter. Laughter is a gift from God. But I would want to go further and say that God’s bottom line for every human being is laughter, because God’s bottom line for every human being is joy. I love Psalm 30:5: “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Through her eighty years of barrenness, Sarah must have done plenty of weeping, but joy came at last in the morning … and with it laughter.

So it was too for Mary and the others on that first Easter Sunday. “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). The verb is chairo — “to be full of good cheer.” Did Peter, James, John and the others laugh when they realised it was true: Jesus really was alive again? Can we have any doubt about it? And perhaps that is why laughter is God’s bottom line, and why joy is God’s bottom line … because life out of death is God’s bottom line. Sarah’s womb was dead but God brought it alive … and Sarah laughed for joy of that new life.

A few weeks ago, at church, we sang that wonderful sixteenth century hymn of William Kethe, “All creatures that on earth do dwell”, and I was very struck by the words in the third line …

All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice;
Him serve with mirth,
His praise forth tell;
come ye before Him and rejoice.

I am meant to be someone who laughs … who laughs a lot … with holy joy. We all are.

Lord Jesus, enable me to revel in your new life and to serve you with mirth today and always. Amen. 

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