Listen to: Matt Maher "Because He Lives"
Have you been pranked yet today? It is April Fool’s Day, a day for centuries that practical jokes, tall tales and jester’s antics reign. Many cultures have similar celebrations clustered around spring time: after all it is a time of renewal, throwing off the oppressive burden of winter and hard times with a bit of frivolity and laughter. I still remember my children telling me about failed tests or the dog taking a dump on the carpet, only to shout “April Fool!!” at my aghast face.
This year, April Fool’s Day falls in the same week as “Bright Sunday,” or in some circles called “Holy Humor” Sunday. This is the week after Easter, and for ages the church has seen this a time of joy, where God tricked the devil by raising Jesus from the dead. Scholars note: “Easter Monday was traditionally a holiday in Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant countries. It was a day of special festivities: games, Emmaus walks in the country, picnics, pranks, practical jokes, and “drenching customs.” On Easter Monday, for instance, boys drenched girls with water, and the girls retaliated by drenching the boys.”
Many churches are bringing back, on the Sunday after Easter, the laughter, joking and joy as a part of the ongoing Easter celebration. It seems this would be a good practice for us all. After the somber season of Lent and the anguish of Holy Week, we respond with joy. This includes laughter and fun. It reminds us that our God is a God of laughter, and that we are created to know joy. Life doesn’t always have to be serious. Certainly life brings its worries and pains. However we are created for more than that. Jesus came so that our joy would be complete (or whole, John 15:11; 1 John 1:3). Joy is a fruit of the Spirit growing and shaping our lives (Gal. 5:22). Ecclesiastes 3:13 reminds us that “ever one should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labor; it is the gift of God.”
April Fool’s Day and “Bright Sunday” remind us to lighten up where we can, for God loves us and is in charge. They further remind us that happiness is often a choice. We must choose to let go when the burden is too heavy. We must choose to see the positive when there are challenges around us. This is not easy to do. We need to help each other and frequently recall Jesus' words to us to "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). 1 Peter 5:7 also exhorts us to “give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”
Let us make the effort, for the life of faith should not be dreary. We will face our challenges and place our burdens in God’s hands, knowing the one that raised Jesus from the dead can raise us back to life as well. So rejoice!
Prayer: “God of Joy: Teach me to let go and trust in your life-giving spirit. Fill my spirit with joy, and help me choose happiness whenever I can.”