We are closing in on the season of Christmas - a time when we gather with family and friends, exchange gifts and wish each other well for the coming year. It is a time of joy as we Christians remember that we are celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. For some who have not had many good things going for them it may become a painful season as they see others enjoying themselves while they are suffering from either physical or mental anguish of some kind. It is good for us to remember those for whom Christmas is not a joyful time and keep them in prayer that somehow they will come to know that they are loved by the God who gave them life and is with us in all of our moments - good and bad.
As we look around our world, however, we are also struck by the fact that there is much going on in the world that would not make us joyful. As we read our daily newspapers or watch the televsion newscasts we are reminded that there is violence, war, corruption, abuse of all kinds and numerous other things which make us wonder how anyone could be joyful. Yet we are called upon to be joyful - not just in this season but at all times.
Are we finding it hard to laugh? Do we find that there are fewer and fewer things about which we can rejoice and be thankful? But as the heading of this blog says: we all need laughter. I think the words of Psalm 126 say it for us: Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then it was said among the nations, "The Lord has done great things for them." The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.
I want here to give credit to some great folks whose thoughts have inspired me to present this blog. For his wonderful stories, I thank Father Bill Bausch; for his insights into the importance of humor in our lives, I thank Father Edward Hays; and for her commitment to spreading the good news of laughter in our lives, I thank my friend Sister Anne Bryan Smollin.
We rejoice because Christ came for us and we need to keep rejoicing and laughing. As my friend, Sr. Anne Bryan Smollin reminds us: laughter can do much for us; it makes life more enjoyable and helps us to live longer and healthier lives. It enhances respiration and increases the amount of oxygen in our blood. Muscles relax throughout our bodies when we laugh.
We can make the choice in life to grasp the beauty of the moment (or the season) and find joy. It is never too late to be happy and more fully alive. As Mark Twain once said: Let us endeavor to live, so that when we die, even the undertaker will be sorry.
Does our prayer have to be somber? Can we not rejoice in that act of speaking in love with the Lord? Have you ever noticed that some people in prayerful meditation often seem to look so serious? If you didn't know they were praying you might think they were attending a funeral.
We all have difficulties in our lives, troubled times, pain and even sometimes rejection, but as I noted before our God is always with us even in these difficult times. And it is often in the little things in life where God comes to us and is revealed to us.
The man whispered, "God, speak to me." And the meadowlark sang. But the man did not hear. So the man yelled, "God, speak to me!" And thunder and lightning rolled across the sky. But the man did not listen. The man looked around and said, "God, let me see you." And a star shone brightly. But the man did not see. And the man shouted, "God, show me a miracle!" And a life was born. But the man did not notice. So the man cried out in despair, "Touch me, God, and let me know you are here." Whereupon God reached down and touched the man. But the man brushed the butterfly away and walked on.
There is a story about a troubled old man. Life seemed to hand him one jolt after another, but he faced each obstacle with a smile and cheery disposition. An acquaintance of the man finally asked him how he managed to stay so happy despite his hardships. The old man quickly answered, "Well, the Bible often says, 'And it came to pass,' but never once does it say, 'It came to stay.'"
We need to live life more fully by finding those joys for which we can give thanks and not dwelling on the negative. As the Chinese proverb states: You cannot prevent birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.
I am continually amazed by the spirit and joyfulness shown by my younger daughter. She has had to cope with serious physical difficulties since her early teens (see my earlier post: What is CMT?). Yet, in spite of these difficulties she has continued to be cheerful and possesses a unique and wonderful sense of humor. To better appreciate how that humor has sustained her I would recommend her blog to you. Entitled Grace Lines, it can be accessed by going to atticusmom1.blogspot.com. Presently she and I are engaged in a "blog war" wherein we try to outdo each other (all in good fun) by citing how many "hits" our blogs receive and where in the world our blogs are being read. I don't mind if you give her some "hits" because I think you will be inspired and also have a good laugh.
We also need to have the ability to laugh at ourselves. Being able to do this is a sign of mature spirituality. Instead of fearing what others think, we can learn to think outside the box and learn new things about ourselves. There is something very sad about one who can laugh at others but cannot have others laugh at him/her. So let's not take ourselves too seriously. Mark Twain reminded us that humans were made at the end of the week's work when God was tired. As the Book of Sirach tells us: Do not give yourselves over to sorrow, and do not distress yourself deliberately. A joyful heart is life itself, and rejoicing lengthens one's life span. Indulge yourself and take comfort, and remove sorrow from you. For sorrow has destroyed many, and no advantage ever comes from it.
The writers of the Gospels might have overlooked the facet of Jesus' humor but I am sure there were many occasions when he had to laugh (particularly at the foibles of his disciples). Maybe the Gospel writers felt that God should be taken so seriously that humor could not play a part. But as the author Father Edward Hays states: We humans are made in the image of God, so humor - so much a part of our humanity - must also be a godly trait.
We are always asked to step out in faith and with total trust in our God - the God who smiles upon us and is happy with his creation of us. A 90 year-old man was being asked a series of questions by a doctor; the doctor finally asked, "Tell me, how was your childhood?" The man answered, "Well, Doc, so far so good!"
Our trust, our willingness to be able to laugh at ourselves and not take ourselves too seriously, and to maintain the heart of a child, will guarantee not that we will never have problems but that we will be able to rise above them and be joyful. As we approach the great feast of Christmas, let us remind ourselves that a healthy spirituality that is laced with joy and humor can lead us to wholeness and holiness. So live, love, and laugh and have a wonderful Christmas season!