Courage for Christmas

December 06, 2016 at 9:26 AM

It is eight years since Reverend Caleb Hardie last conducted the Boys’ School Carol Service when he was, then, the School Chaplain. This year, he stepped in to lead the call to worship, to lend a helping hand to his brother, current Chaplain to the Schools, Reverend Reuben Hardie. Caleb quipped that his brother Reuben ‘is tied up with other things’ but as the community is well aware, Reuben is currently recovering from surgery having offered the ultimate Christmas gift to the Fitness family. Mark Fitness, a Christian Education teacher at the Schools, and his wife Gabe, discovered with great distress that their baby, Lexi needed a liver transplant for a better start to her young life. Whilst Reuben may have dreamed of being ‘Superman’ as a youngster, he has grown to be ‘Liverman’ in his adult years – the right match making it possible for Reuben to offer part of his liver to transplant to Lexi. Both are in recovery and doing well.

In 2008, the last time, Reverend Caleb Hardie took the service, the current Year 8 boys were only in Year 1, so he said he felt honoured to be at their special final service. In his opening prayer, he said, ‘God, tonight we are here to remember the gift of your son – the wonder of his birth – and the miracle that he is with us now, helping us, guiding us, inspiring us to walk in his footsteps and to have the courage to be all that we can be.’

This service is always a delightful time of music, whether it’s the congregation singing time-honoured carols or listening to our youngsters raise their voices in song. Oscar van Druten was thisyear’s soloist, opening the service with the first verse of ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ before the congregation joined in, setting a wonderful tone for the evening as early summer sun streamed through the stained glass windows.

The Junior School loves to sing! ‘The bells ring out’ was their selection, some of the boys a little wide-eyed as they turned to face a congregation well in excess of 2000! By contrast, our Performers’ Choir is well used to an audience, making a superb job of ‘This little babe’ and the ‘Saint Kentigern Blessing,’ accompanied by harpist, Yi Jin.

Old Collegians, Sam Downes and Manase Latu, both studying ‘voice’ at Auckland University, opened the first verse of Silent Night. They were talented choristers at College but it was amazing to hear how they have developed. Later in the service, Manase returned for a solo.  From the oldest to the youngest; our Preschool girls and boys were next to step up with their version of ‘Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ – in a tight race with the Junior Boys for the cute factor! The final group was the staff who joined as one to sing, ‘What child is this?’

Rev Hardie set us all a challenge asking, How well do you know the Christmas story?’ Drawing on volunteers to take a quiz, it soon became apparent that somewhere along the way, ‘a good story’ may have replaced real facts.

How did Mary travel to Bethlehem?  How many wise men visited Jesus?  Was Jesus born in a stable?’ The answer to all these questions is, ’The Bible doesn’t say.’

But,’ Rev Hardie continued, ‘at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter whether or not Mary rode on a donkey or walked, whether there were three wise men or five, or whether Jesus was born in a hotel or a cowshed, it is what is at the heart of the story that matters.  That God loved people so much that He sent Jesus to make that love clear to us and to help us to have the courage to live life to the full. That is at the heart of this Christmas story!  Because it takes courage to really live, to give life your all. To make the most of school life takes courage, to leave as the Year 8’s are doing, to head out on a new adventure takes courage, to stand up for someone else takes courage…and to give a piece of your liver away, well that takes a special kind of courage!’ 

The Carol Service is a poignant moment for the families of the boys in Year 8 as their association with the School draws to a close. At the conclusion of the service, the Year 8 boys came forward to light a candle, before Head Prefects, Isaac Mellis-Glynn and Jack Sandelin led their peers from the cathedral, marking the start of a new chapter in their lives.

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