Late Night and Laughter in the Church

   “This is what the Lord says:  You have said, ‘This is a desolate land where people and animals have all disappeared.’ Yet in the empty streets of Jerusalem and Judah’s other towns, there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and laughter.  The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will be heard again, along with the joyous songs of people bringing thanksgiving offerings to the Lord.  They will sing,‘Give thanks to the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, for the Lord is good.  His faithful love endures forever!’ ”  (Jeremiah 33:10, 11  New Living Translation)
            Early in our marriage, Leslie and I used to stay up for the first hour of the Late Show with David Letterman. We’d make it to the Top Ten List before turning off the TV and turning in for the night. We watched to laugh; and we usually did.
            Nowadays, it’s the rare night when I am up at that hour. Though I seldom watch the Late Show, I know that David Letterman hosted his last show on Thursday night. Thanks to YouTube, I caught most of the final show at a decent hour the next day. I watched to laugh; and I did laugh.
            Laughter mostly takes a beating in the Bible. Here’s a sharp word from Proverbs 14: 13, “Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.” Here’s a verse from Jeremiah that gets repeated a few times in this prophet’s book, “I will put an end to the happy singing and laughter in the streets of Jerusalem. The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will no longer be heard in the towns of Judah. The land will lie in complete desolation.” (Jeremiah 7:34) And here’s this downer from the Teacher, the author of Ecclesiastes, as found in chapter 7, “Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies— so the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us.
            But then there’s this surprising verse from the book of Job, of all books. Referring to the Lord, Blida, one of Job’s friends, assures his grieving friend, “He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” 
            On most days, there are plenty of reasons to weep and cry, but there is usually a reason to laugh; even if you need a little help from one of the late night hosts.  In the church, I think laughter is mostly a good thing. It’s a gift from God and a sign that God has shown up among us.
            One of the healthiest sounds that you’ll hear leaking out of the Conference Room during a Session meeting is the music of joyous belly laughs.  I particularly love when we laugh together in worship.  As followers of Jesus, we keep boundaries on the pursuit of laughter. Laughter at the expense of others is always out of bounds.  But when I can laugh at my own foibles, then that’s an indication that I’m in a good place spiritually.
            So when a guest, or a visitor, or a newcomer opens the doors of the sanctuary or Fellowship Hall, may laughter greet their ears!
            A final note:  I’m a fan of an Internet series featuring comedian Jerry Seinfeld.  The series title is a little unwieldy but it does tell you what the 20-minute episodes are about:  Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.  Jerry Seinfeld takes a comedian out for coffee in one of his many cars.  It’s fun listening to comedians talk about their work and laugh!  Here’s a link for the show:  http://comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com/