A man with a hang-over falls asleep during the Sunday homily. The priest says to his congregation, "All those wishing to have a place in heaven, please stand."
Everyone stands up but the sleeping man. Then he says even more loudly, "And he who would like to find a place in hell please STAND UP!"
The man groggily stands up alone. Confused and embarrassed he says, "I don't know what we're voting on here, Father, but it seems like you and me are the only ones standing for it!"
"He will yet fill your mouth with laughing, and your lips with rejoicing" (Job 8:21).
If the Lord can make Job rejoice and laugh, after all his misfortunes, you and I can surely be more cheerful.
In "Christian Humor" Charles Henderson points out that Italian poet Dante entitled his great poem of the Christian life The Divine Comedy, and Soren Kiekegaard, the Danish theologian said that the Christian faith is the most humorous point of view a person can take.
Why? Because once you're confident of God's presence and power, once you've seen this world as the creation of God, once you know that life at its root is joy and not fear, then your sense of humor is guaranteed.
[note: I use Henderson's Ame. spelling of humor here and watch the editors scramble.]
Henderson says: Much great humor revolves around the contradiction between our potential and our actual accomplishments. Humor reflects the tension between our professed ideals and our behavior, the disparity between our vision of ourselves and who we actually are. Great humor is based upon the natural contradictions, the real and everyday conflicts which are part of human nature itself.
He continues: For while our minds explore the mysteries of the universe, our bodies are firmly attached to earth. While our souls explore the nature of God, or the meaning of life and death, we are engaged in such basic necessities as eating, sleeping and the like. Life is full of embarrassing reminders that while we are only a little lower than the angels, we are also only a little higher than the worm.
Henderson talks about the "sacred humor that sustains the spirit even in a time of terror." Sacred humor is equal to the wisdom of the wise because it sees how silly we human beings can be. Sacred humor pokes holes in our posturing, pretension and pride. Sacred humor is equal to the courage of the brave because it knows that even death does not spoil the dance or kill the drama of life.
Sacred humor equals the love of the saints because it sees that all people are one in their folly and in their dignity. The tragedy is that far too few of us live with that kind of humor. For many the glass is half empty.
The answer to tragedy is vision.
Henderson ends his essay with a prayer:
O God, grant us a deepening sense of humor, that the tragedy of this world may be swallowed up in the joy of a graceful and godly life.