Carol Service Epilogue

Below is the address given by our Chaplain, the Reverend David Johnson, at our School Carol Service that traditionally marks the end of Dauntsey's  Autumn Term.

AM32 885554. That might be all that you wish to remember from this evening or you might take away something more valuable.

This service is always a beautiful end to the term and to this year. I am grateful to the readers who have taken us through the Christmas story and for the choirs who have given us moments of beautiful reflection. I am pleased that the service has given us the chance to sing some of our favourite Christmas hymns and carols, and I hope that a sense of the peace and happiness of this evening might be with you through the weeks of the Christmas holiday.

If I had more time this evening – and was not quite so conscious of leaving school with 17 pupils to go to India in a short while – I would like to tell you more about the life-story of the artist Graham Short. In particular he is a micro-artist, whose engravings are produced on the scale of particles of dust. He engraved a copy of the central panel of Da Vinci’s Last Supper along the sharp edge of a razor blade. His portrait of the Queen on a speck of gold in the eye of needle sold for £100,000.

Last December he engraved microscopic portraits of Jane Austen on five of the new polymer £5 notes; one was donated to the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, the others were spent in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. Three of the four notes have been found; one is still out in circulation. Each is said to be worth around £50,000.

One of the notes – the one that was found in Northern Ireland - was posted back to the gallery who organised the distribution with a short letter simply signed with a letter J and kiss. The letter said “I don’t need it at my time of life. Please use it to help young people.” I believe it has been auctioned for that purpose.

I am always inspired by people who feel they have enough; who can be content with what they have and with life as it is. It is something found in the ancient Greek philosophies of Stoicism and Epicureanism and reflected in Christianity as well as other great ways of life. The Buddah, for example, said “Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.”

In Christmas cards many people send wishes for ‘health and happiness’ and I have always thought this might not be much to wish for – they are things we take for granted. But I have come to reflect, and others of you will have also come to understand, how important good health actually is. When we are ill, in whatever way, all of our plans and ideas and schemes simply fall apart. We need to take care of ourselves and each other but more than this we need to be grateful for all the opportunities that simply being well can bring to us that we would otherwise not have. Perhaps that realisation can lead us to be more generous in time and thought and perhaps even in charity as well: to those who need the help that we can give.

Rather than thinking of life as being about wanting and winning; about gaining and getting; I would so much rather think of life as an adventure in which we are not competing with anyone else but making the best of what we have and enjoying the company of those with whom we share this great privilege of simply living. It is not about what we can gain but about what we can share.

The Christmas story is not about God coming into this world to dazzle us with greatness; it is about Jesus sharing the experience of the people around him; trying to offer change for the better and to bring goodness into people’s lives. It is about sharing the suffering of others and sometimes the powerlessness of wanting to do so much but simply being limited by what it means to be human.

You might take away from this service that sequence of letters and numbers I read out a few moments ago which is the serial number of the last £5 note, or perhaps you might like to think about the message that accompanied the note that was returned. Rather than thinking about what we want; let us try to just think about what we need and be happy with what we have. Most of all let us be grateful for the people around us – our family and our friends and the community of our school. Be grateful; be kind and share the good with which your lives are blessed; be gentle to one another and take care of yourselves.

The Revd David Johnson
Dauntey’s School Chaplain
December 2017