You smile, I’ll smile, together smile,
for smiling makes us both feel good;
it stimulates our happiness,
our brains, aroused, have understood
our facial muscles’ clear intent
to signal joy or quiet content.
The brain produces chemicals
which act to cause a feedback loop.
The muscles round the mouth and eyes,
respond again, the smiles don’t stop
but foster further joyfulness
and spread more signs of happiness.
Did Jesus smile? O surely, yes!
For many folk to him were drawn.
Unless he’d at Zaccheus smiled,
that taxman might have not climbed down
to eat, where cordial smiles surged round
as he, to Christ, pledged change profound.
Christ would have smiled with those he healed,
for such a smile would play a part
in giving hope for a release
from any ailment - a new start.
Glad, marvelling smiles would sweep the crowds
as vigour blessed lives once bowed down.
He’d smile whilst watching children play
delighting in their innocence.
Funerals and weddings acted out
and games of lesser consequence.
Those children would smile back, engaged
by genial interest in their games.
The women who encountered Christ
would smile with him, calm and secure:
ill, or possessed, or by a well,
when Jesus smiled, they’d know for sure
that they were valued, not in lust
but in a love that they could trust.
As Jesus smiled, time after time,
His brain, and muscles in his face
would have responded just as ours:
for fully human, full of grace
was God’s own son who lived on earth,
full knowing what a smile is worth.
* * * * *
The genesis of this poem came from watching a video of the Glasgow based Christian music group called ‘Celtic Worship’. Throughout their performance of ‘I Stand Amazed’, they smile together over and again, enhancing the whole performance with a sense of joy that complements the thrill of the song itself. Having noticed this and watched many times, I decided it would be good to find out a little bit about what happens when we smile. Thank you ‘Celtic Worship’.
I found on the web several explanations of the science of a smile but for the sake of the brevity needed for a poem, I had to abstract only the barest details of research into smiling. Quite quickly I found that smiling is helpfully described as ‘contagious’ and that feedback loops between the brain and the facial muscles are part of a brief, so intentionally simple, explanation. The chemicals in verse 2 are known as endorphins. They form in the part of the brain that houses our pleasure and pain-defence receptors. I decided this had to suffice for the purpose of this poem because, given the musical starting point for the reflective process preceding the writing, I was keen to expand the theme to think about Jesus smiling. That feels an important connection to me, because there is an all-too-present danger of coming to regard Jesus as somewhat unapproachable. For me
it is undoubtedly pleasing to think that in normal day-to-day life he was almost certainly more often joyful than gloomy?
I like to think of him with a frequent radiant smile that drew many, many people to him to listen to his life-changing Good News.
So that is what this poem celebrates.
‘Celtic Worship’s’, ‘I Stand Amazed’ can be found HERE
As part of my thinking about Jesus Smiling, I compiled a list of events and places where I thought Jesus would almost certainly smiled. The list follows and if this is an idea that resonates with you, you might like to add to the list for, as it stands, it is definitely not comprehensive!
At Zacchaeus as he offered to eat with him Luke Ch 19. v 8-10
At Mary at the Wedding Feast in Cana (maybe enigmatically!) John Ch 1 v 47 - Ch 2 v 6
At new Disciples when he called them Matthew Ch 4 v 18-22
In the carpenter’s shop when complimented by Joseph
At the woman at the well John Ch 4 v 6-17
At the grateful leper Luke Ch 17 v 11-17
At the woman with the issue of blood Mark Ch 5 v 26 - 34
At the beauty around him
At the stars of the night
At Jairus daughter and at Jairus and his wife
At Mary, Martha and Lazarus
On the Centurion with the dying servant
At those who thanked him for the bread and fish handed out in the wilderness
At children who he watched playing
At those who welcomed him to Jerusalem
At those who welcomed him and the disciples into their homes
At the blind man who was cured
at the woman who was not stoned
As he told stories The Good Samaritan/ Prodigal son
After he had admonished Peter ‘Get thee behind me, Satan’
At the recovered Legion
At the creatures in the desert
At the parents of any children he had cured
During the story of the houses on sand and rock ’
At the woman who anointed his feet
At John after his Baptism
At Nathaniel (I saw you under the fig tree)
At the Canaanite woman ‘Even the dogs…’
* * * * * *
The scientific ideas incorporated in this post were drawn from a British Council blog which published work by a young scientist named Ding Li. You can read that post by clicking HERE https://www.britishcouncil.org/voices-magazine/famelab-whats-science-behind-smile