This song from Mary Poppins taught me the spectrum of laughs. Puns are a favorite of mine, and I pride myself on dry wit. But sometimes laughing is not for pure pleasure, but just to ease the pressure on a sore spot. For Abraham and Sarah, they knew God had promised to give them a son, and they had Ishmael from Sarah’s handmaiden. But God insisted that Sarah was going to have a baby bump and hold an infant at age 90. They started laughing (see Genesis 17-18):
“15 And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 19 God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.”
God has a sense of humor…in the face of their disbelief, He told them to name the child “laughter.” Overwhelmed joy and shocked disbelief combined in the name of a child. Because Sarah had the same reaction in chapter 18:
“9 They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” 10 The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying,“After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.””
And I’m sure the house was filled with laughter as the child grew and grew. God worked beyond their wildest dreams. And perhaps the child’s name was a subtle reminder to never underestimate Him.
God, thank You for laughter, and for working in crazy ways that remind us that You are God and nothing is impossible with You! And even when it feels like my dreams are impossible, You work when I follow You in bigger ways than I can imagine. Thank You for how You are working, and please help me to learn to laugh in amazement at what You do. Amen.