Holy Laughter

The power of laughter in a broken world.

The sky was blue and so was the mood in the drop-in center. Everyone kind of moped, here on Main Street, in this place where the homeless and vulnerable gather daily for cheap meals and free conversation. 

I came in as I always do, Wednesdays at lunch, to sit at the long rectangular table and share in the conversation. Later, after lunch, I would lead Bible study in the lounge area.

Normally people greet me enthusiastically as I enter, but today they were slumped over their plates, quietly chewing, eyes to themselves.

I found a chair by Michael*, who always makes me smile with his love for Jesus and for holidays. He looked at me, said “Halloween?”, then continued with his lunch. I tried to connect with new faces across the table; even Toby, beside me, who can never finish his lunch because he eats like a bird, just nodded when I said hi and then stood up and left, his plate half-full. Soon, others filtered in and they needed my chair so I was left standing. 

My mood began to slouch.

Someone had bound up Joy and sent her out on the morning train. And we needed her back. 

Stronger than fear

Suddenly, we heard it. A baby’s laughter. 

A single dad, a former drug addict who’s turning his life around, had brought his baby boy in. The sound of his child’s laughter was like the sun breaking through, and everybody stopped, and smiled.

“A baby’s laughing!” said one of the staff members. There was silence, even as we listened to the musical chuckle, and backs straightened, eyes found one another, and conversation began to slowly happen.

A baby’s laughter is the sound of hope. 

Can you imagine what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph when their new son laughed for the first time? The Son of the Most High, giggling at a funny face Joseph might have made, or a silly voice Mary used? Even as Joseph wondered how he’d care for his family gone into exile, even as Mary questioned how she was going to raise God’s child in a foreign land, their fears and worries faded when Jesus laughed. In the crinkled-up face of the Messiah, whose peals of laughter would have been the purest sounds the earth had ever heard, was a joy so bright, so vivid, no darkness could stand against it. 

In Psalm 2 it says he still laughs over the plans that leaders make, over the people plotting in vain, over the nations conspiring. He laughs, and we can laugh with him, knowing that the King reigns, and blessed are all who take refuge in him.

So let’s ponder the power of laughter this season as we gather with our families. Let’s remember that, even as the nations conspire and the people plot, we have nothing to fear, for the One who came as a baby now reigns forever in immortal light and is making all things new.


  • Emily Wierenga

    Emily Wierenga is a wife and mother who is passionate about the church and lives in northern Alberta. She is the author of the memoirs Atlas Girl and Making it Home (Baker Books), and the founder of a non-profit working in Africa and Asia.

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