Christmas is the perfect time to laugh, because in the Christmas story, God’s sense of humor shines through.
Reversal, surprise, and irony are the main ingredients of comedy. A well-crafted joke deconstructs our sensibilities and challenges us to think about the world in a new way. So depending on your perspective, you may not think a joke is very funny – that is, if the joke is on you.
Think about the Christmas story, for instance –
- Our Messiah – God’s Mighty Deliverer, the Hope of the Nations, whose name was to be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father Prince of Peace’ – turned out to be a baby. Think about that – our King introduced himself to us amidst spit-up, dirty diapers, and birth fluids. No wonder we didn’t have room for him in that Bethlehem inn.
- And the first to hear the good news of his birth were not the religious leaders, not the political movers and shakers, not even the devout believers devoted to prayer and fasting. No –the angels instead went way out into the countryside and celebrated with a bunch of smelly shepherds. Shepherds in the ancient world rarely had the chance to speak to other people, much less an entire chorus of angels.
- And the wise men from the East – the first ones in line to bow before Jesus and offer their gifts to the Son of God – were foreigners. They were little more than bureaucratic ambassadors from another country, discharging their duty to greet Israel’s new King. They had no right to welcome God in the flesh because they were outsiders. It would’ve been like the president of the United States inviting a bunch of Canadians to the inauguration ceremony.
Depending on where you are in the story, the birth of Jesus could either be seriously insulting, or unexpectedly hilarious. Are you expecting God’s favor because your social standing says you deserve it? Better talk to those smelly shepherds. Are you expecting a formal, mature, sophisticated God to officially endorse the status quo? Better talk to the guy in charge of cleaning that Bethlehem stable. Are you an honored member of the “in” crowd expecting to exercise your membership privileges? Better get in line behind the wise men.
So take a step back and laugh a little this Christmas. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t forget – if humor is the art of the unexpected, God is the master at toying with our expectations.
Merry Christmas –