Jesus presses the tension between the sublime and the ridiculous. The incarnation, if approached correctly, will result in a belly laugh, which is perhaps the most down-to-earth expression of mystical experience. Humor helps us to find space where there is no space and to creatively embrace contradictions.
Given the overwhelming paradoxes of Jesus’ very being, I’m convinced he had a profound sense of humor. There’s a whisper of Jesus’ humor in the Gospels. There’s the neat pun on Peter’s name lost in translation, “and on this rock (petra) I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). There’s humor lost in translation about a camel going through the eye of a needle (camel was a pun that sounded like rope/ Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25). These aren’t the uproarious jokes that get people crying and aching in the belly. Yet we can celebrate Jesus’ earthy humanity and joy of living by recovering Jesus’ humor nuanced in the Gospels.
We can also celebrate the whacked-out juxtaposition of the incarnation. One moment the incarnate One curses a fig tree (something I would do on a bad day/ Matthew 21:19). The next moment there is so much spiritual power emanating from him that if you touch the hem of his garment you come away cured and whole (Matthew 9:20)!
If the incarnation doesn’t make our belly quiver, we’re missing the point. As author Anne Lamott puts it: “Laughter is carbonated holiness.”