Carol Service Epilogue

I am always fascinated by the word that the Oxford English Dictionary chooses to be its ‘word of the year’. I think it is an interesting reflection of who we are as a society and a culture and it says something about what has been important to us as individuals through the year. This year the word is ‘emoji’, a word from Japanese, made up from ‘e’ meaning ‘picture’ and ‘moji’ meaning ‘letter or character’. Emojis are a wonderful way to sum up how you feel or to express what you want to say in a text message by means of one or a few expressive faces.

Sometimes it is fun and quite skilful to choose an emoji that represents our mood. So what would the emoji be at the end of this term: a smiley face or something more subtle? Hilary Clinton got into trouble by asking a similar question but could you sum up this term in three emojis or less?

As well as choosing humorous and thoughtful emojis, we also need to learn to express ourselves in more complicated ways. We need to be able to use the richness of language to show our feelings and our thoughts. And, before we even do this we need to have what is sometimes called the ‘emotional intelligence’ to actually be aware of what our feelings and thoughts might be. Too often our brief and superficial communications with one another are made up of reactions and impulses when really we need to be a bit more thoughtful and considerate for what others, and ourselves, might be thinking and feeling.

Human communication is an art, and like developing our skills in any art, we need to develop an ability to choose the right words and to say what we mean with care and thoughtfulness.

Sometimes in life there are events that make us all realise just how fragile and precious life is. And often our response to this is to try to tell people just how much they mean to us. I am sad that it can take difficult experiences to remind us to do this so perhaps we could all, this Christmas, try to just tell those around how special they are to us. And if we can go beyond words we can, of course, try to show this by things we can do – not necessarily in terms of the lavish presents that we buy – but in terms of the time and help and care we can offer to other people.

This is a wonderful service with fifteen excellent readers sharing the nine readings between them. In terms of Christmas, what is important is not just to be reminded of the stories and the readings that we have shared together this afternoon. Christmas is about more than God’s word on a page; it is God’s word made flesh; it is about God wanting us to know how much we are loved that he showed us this love in person. Our response to this is a free response; to love because we know and feel just how much we have been loved.

And there is just one final thing to say which is that sometimes feelings and thoughts and even love itself cannot be expressed in words. One of the things I have re-experienced for myself is the power of music to touch the depths within us for which words cannot be found. Sometimes music can touch us at a level within our spiritual selves that it communicates even the presence of God.

So I want to pay tribute to those who have the gift of creating and sharing music: to our choirs and all our musicians; and, if I may, this year, just pay tribute to Mr Totney who as a composer, a musician, a teacher and a choir master, has brought that gift of music to us. We will miss him greatly, I will miss him very much, and we all wish him well as he begins at a new school in January.

As I said at the beginning, we cannot just express ourselves in emojis and pictures and we sometimes need the best words we can find to communicate our feelings and our thoughts. I hope that the words we have heard and the music in which we have shared might have expressed something of the God and the love that is at the heart of Christmas. And may I therefore wish you all a happy, and peaceful Christmas.

The Revd David Johnson
Dauntsey’s School Chaplain
December 2015