by Andrew Constable

Chaplain's Comment from Rev Peter Rickman

In December our Chaplain, Rev Peter Rickman, shared his reflections on the meaning of Christmas. While the festive season has now passed we hope you are still able to take away some meaning from his message.

“Joy to the World the Lord is come, let earth receive her King!”

These opening lyrics of one of the world’s favourite Christmas carols were published a long time ago in 1715. Isaac Watts was the author and Handel set them to music. I have heard them sung and played recently in the most unlikely of places, but that did not stop me from joining in with enthusiasm, excitement and in anticipation of the season to come.

I first heard them being played over and over again on a number of China Airlines flights as a group of us flew to Cambodia for the annual adventure with the charity ‘Flame’, working with children and young adults in the slums of Phnom Penh. I was quite pleasantly surprised to hear one of the national airlines of this great communist regime play such an explicit Christian Christmas Carol over and over again on its flights. Christmas is certainly infectious!

In Cambodia I also heard this Christmas carol being repeatedly played over the public address systems of a number of rather empty air-conditioned shopping malls; an emptiness standing in direct contrast to our own at this time of year and yet one would struggle to hear such beautiful Christian music being played in Chartwell or at The Base; such venues seem to prefer music which refer to chestnuts roasting on open fires, rocking around Christmas trees and giving our hearts away last Christmas!

However, it was not on the China Airlines flights or in the shopping malls of Phnom Penh that this carol seemed to point and lead me directly into the heart of Christmas; but rather in the slums themselves and in the children centres of Flame there. Here on several occasions the children sang in Khmer:


(The native language of Cambodia.)

“Joy to the World the Lord is come, let earth receive her King!”

It truly was a joy to sing this Christmas carol with these children, many of whom live in the most appalling of conditions in the slums adjacent to the open sewers. It was a joy because, as many of us noted, they were full of joy. They were happy despite the poverty, despite all the things in their lives that could equate to unhappiness, they were happy! Happy to be in the Flame centres, happy to be receiving an education and happy because they knew Jesus and that through Christ they knew that they were profoundly loved by God. This seemed to be the centre of their joy and so when they sang “Joy to the world the Lord is come” they really meant it and felt it.

It is my hope and prayer that this sense of joy becomes ours too during our annual celebrations of the gift of Jesus Christ to us at Christmas. Christmas means many things, but above all, broadcasts the divine truth: God is with us, understands and knows us, journeys with us and loves us.

“Joy to the World the Lord is come, let earth receive her King!”

Love and blessings from Rev Peter