Carol Service Epilogue

Those of you who have come to Carol Services for a number of years will know that a recurring theme of my epilogue is a reflection on the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year.

In recent years the chosen words ‘emoji’ and ‘selfie’ have reflected our growing attachment and dependence on mobile phones. This addiction is something that is gradually being accepted as detrimental to our communal life as well as our mental and indeed spiritual health. One article I read recently noted how as humans ‘we have gone from looking up and looking around to constantly looking down.’ I would, as always, encourage you to do everything you can to give yourselves a break from these enslaving little devices during the weeks ahead. But to see how difficult this is, just see how soon after this service some people turn to check their phones…

The word that has come to represents us and our world in 2016 is not a six letter word beginning with ‘B’ even though it continues to dominate news reports. One of my pupils, seeing me in a pensive mood one day, kindly remarked ‘you still haven’t got over Brexit have you sir?!’ Indeed I still haven’t and I do think the world would be a different place if we had, as in the Scottish Independence Referendum, offered the vote to 16 year olds, or perhaps to everyone at school whose lives would be affected by the outcome.

The actual word of the year is related to the vote that brought about Brexit and which also influenced the other surprising election result of the year over in the US. The word of 2016 is ‘post-truth’ meaning the ignoring of facts within a debate or decision in favour of appeals to emotion and opinions. It seems that people can and do choose what to believe and be influenced to base their decisions: on made-up information, on prejudice, or on whatever they can be convinced to accept. It seems that honesty and integrity are amongst the casualties of this year. And sadly it is often those values that our young people need to have most because it might reassure them and encourage them to see that the world beyond school is something to look forward to rather than to fear.

The name Nico Rosberg may not be familiar to you. He had been involved in motor racing for twenty-five years since the age of six. After eleven of those years in Formula One, at the end of last month he followed in his father’s footsteps and became World Champion. Five days later he announced his retirement, walking away from a sport he loves and from an £18.3 million pound contract. In his retirement statement he talked about having climbed his mountain and leaving while he was at the peak. But it was also filled with gratitude for those who had helped him and expressions of thanks to his wife and love for his young daughter, saying that he did not want his career and his dreams to take him away from time he could now spend with them. In an interview he said these words: ‘I have decided to follow my heart, and my heart has told me just to stop there, to call it a day.’

In a post-truth world where the emotions people are guided by are so often those of fear and envy I think it is important to remember that we can be guided by our heart in ways that open up our lives to others, to new ways of living and to new possibilities and adventures. We can, in the same spirit, make thought-out decisions that are good for our own health and wellbeing and also for the benefit of our families and those whom we love.

My request at this year’s Carol Service and for 2017 is to ask us all to take a few moments each day simply to be grateful; to allow ourselves to think positively about our own lives and generously about how we might relate to one another. You might call this meditation, or mindfulness, or just simple old-fashioned prayer. We need to be able to find stillness and peace within ourselves so that we can make genuine choices with honesty, integrity and love.

I wish you a peaceful Christmas and a New Year that truly reflects the love that God would want for all the people of the world and for each of us here today.

The Revd David Johnson, Dauntsey’s School Chaplain, December 2016