The Bible is a funny book. Need proof? Read Genesis.
No, really, do it. It’s chock full of puns. Everyone’s name is a pun. It’s absolutely amazing. All theories of authorship aside, Genesis was obviously written by that one uncle who thought he was hilarious and makes puns non-stop.
For those who haven’t caught on yet, I’m working through the daily readings of the Revised Common Lectionary for this Lenten blog. Today’s Old Testament passage is a reminder of the Bible’s sense of humor:
The Lord was attentive to Sarah just as he had said, and the Lord carried out just what he had promised her. 2 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son for Abraham when he was old, at the very time God had told him.3 Abraham named his son—the one Sarah bore him—Isaac.[a] 4 Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old just as God had commanded him. 5 Abraham was 100 years old when his son Isaac was born.6 Sarah said, “God has given me laughter. Everyone who hears about it will laugh with me.”[b] 7 She said, “Who could have told Abraham that Sarah would nurse sons? But now I’ve given birth to a son when he was old!” (Genesis 21:1-7)
For those who don’t know, the joke is in the original Hebrew, and so translating it is a bit necessary to get the joke. The pun is that the name Isaac is also the Hebrew word for “he laughed.”
For those on the outside, this may not be side-splittingly funny, but for Sarah it absolutely was. It’s no secret that biology has quite a few constraints, and that especially applies to women over a certain age. Abraham and Sarah are notable in the Bible for the fact that God came to them when both of them were, as past parishioners have called them, “seasoned citizens.”
And yet, after almost a century of being childless, God gives them a kid.
Forget the biological impossibility of it; can you imagine a pregnant 80 year old lady? At the same time, can you imagine the joy Sarah had at learning that, after a lifetime of no children in a society when bearing children was the central role of women, she would be granted a child? There’s absurdity in it, but there’s also joy.
It’s far from an easy process, of course, going through childbirth. It’s scary, it’s painful, and it’s all kinds of risky. However, for Sarah, who spent a life in the dark (for her), she now gets a bit of the sunlight.
What I’m taking away from this is that in Lent, it’s not all sack-cloth and ashes. We may be in the wilderness, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all sadness. There can be joy in the wilderness too. And laughter.