This week's service is a little different as we especially make space for jokes and laughter in the service. This is a “resurrection” (pun intended) of an old Easter custom begun by early Christians. The week following Easter Sunday was observed by the faithful as "days of joy and laughter.” This was inspired by early Christian preachers who envisioned the risen Christ laughing at the devil. I hope you have a joyful worship experience!
The idea of setting aside one Sunday each year to celebrate God’s gift of laughter and joy may be new to University UMC, but it’s got a long and rich history in many congregations around the world. It is known as Laughter Sunday, Holy Humor Sunday, Hilarity Sunday, God’s Laughter Sunday, Bright Sunday or Holy Fools Sunday.
Churches in 15th century Bavaria used to celebrate the Sunday after Easter as Risus Paschalis (‘God’s Joke,’ or ‘the Easter laugh’). Priests would deliberately include amusing stories and jokes in their sermons in an attempt to make the faithful laugh. After the service, people would gather together to play practical jokes on one another and tell funny stories. It was their way of celebrating the resurrection of Christ – the supreme joke God played on Satan by raising Jesus from the dead. The observance of Risus Paschalis was officially outlawed by Pope Clement X in the 17th century. Perhaps people were having too much fun!
In the Orthodox tradition, people still gather on Easter Monday to tell jokes and funny stories, and to dance and eat together. Other traditions celebrate Laetare Sunday on the fourth Sunday in Lent. “Laetare” means ‘rejoice,’ and comes from the opening collect for that day: “Rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow.”
In 1988, the Fellowship of Merry Christians began encouraging churches to resurrect some of these Christian traditions—to celebrate the grace and mercy of God through the gift of laughter and joy. As G.K. Chesterton once wrote:
“Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.
Never forget that the devil fell by force of gravity.
He who has the faith has the fun.”
Rejoice! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
(Above information is from Re-Worship, the Fellowship of Merry Christians, and the Joyful Noiseletter)