December 15, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Psalm 126:1-5 (NRSV)
When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
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.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears
reap with shouts of joy.
After his “spiritual” transformation, Ebenezer Scrooge laughed. As Charles Dickens writes, Scrooge cut loose with “a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh.” We can keep Christmas well by enjoying laughter. Our joy doesn’t deny the pains of life today. But it is a fitting response to God’s lavish grace, even as it anticipates the greater laughter that is yet to come.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Keeping Christmas Well.
In the beginning of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge lives a joyless, miserly life. Yet, when he is transformed through otherworldly assistance, Scrooge becomes a new man, a joyful man, indeed, a laughing man. On Christmas morning following his transformation, as Scrooge looks around his room and remembers the events of the previous night, he exults, “It’s all right, it’s all true, it all happened. Ha ha ha!” About this display, the narrator comments: “Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh. The father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs!”
When we experience God’s grace, laughter often follows. Consider Psalm 126 for example. This psalm begins with a remembrance of the time when the Lord “restored the fortunes of Zion” (126:1). How did God’s people respond? “Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy” (126:2). Laughter expresses the ebullient joy of those who have been saved.
Yet, we wonder, what if our lives are a mess? What if we’re struggling and suffering? What if we’re in the middle of a global pandemic? What if we’re victims of violence or injustice? Can we laugh then? Psalm 126 speaks to these questions. The second half of the psalm reveals the tough life setting of the psalm writer. Israel is in need of restoration (126:4). The people are “sowing in tears” and “weeping” (126:5-6). Yet, in their sadness, they live in anticipation of coming home “with shouts of joy” (126:6). Redemption will come and for this God’s people live in hope.
Advent is a season for laughter in the mode of Psalm 126. It is a time to take seriously the brokenness of our world and our need for a Savior. It is a time for yearning, longing, hoping, even for mourning. Yet, in this season we prepare to celebrate with joy the coming of Christ. And we look forward to the time when he will come again, when sorrows will cease and joy will reign.
In our anticipation, we are blessed. As Jesus said, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” With this confidence, and with the remembrance of God’s grace in Christ, we can laugh even now, the beginning of a “long, long line of brilliant laughs.”
Ebenezer Scrooge kept Christmas well by laughing and so can we. Our laughter doesn’t ignore the sorrows of life, but it expresses the truth that God is working in all things for good (Romans 8:28). We laugh today in confident hope of the greater laughter yet to come.
Can you remember a time when you laughed very hard? What happened? What did it feel like to laugh that way?
What helps you to laugh?
Have you ever laughed in response to God’s grace? When? Why?
How can laughter prepare our hearts for a greater rejoicing yet to come?
Pay attention to laughter, your own, and that of others. Enjoy it!
Gracious God, thank you for the gift of laughter, for the blessing of joy. Thank you for times when, like the psalmist, our mouths have been filled with laughter because of your grace. Thank you for the promise of more laughter yet to come.
Lord, in this season of Advent, our laughter is not complete. We feel the pain of our world and the brokenness of our own lives. We feel sorrow along with hope. We remember how much we need a Savior. We look forward to the unrestrained joy that is yet to come.
Help us, we pray, to be people of laughter and joy, even as we are people of longing and sorrow. Help us to delight in your salvation, even as we hope for the fullness of your kingdom yet to come.
Maranatha! Our Lord, come! Hallelujah! Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Best of Daily Reflections: From Bitter Tears to Shouts of Joy
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.