4 February 2019

No matter which way you look at it, the start of the 2018 school year still feels like it was just yesterday. I am now starting to worry that the old saying that the older you get the quicker time goes may well have substance. The only solace is that in speaking to many of the boys and our young staff, they also feel that 2018 has disappeared in a blink.

Last Friday we celebrated what I feel is the most significant night of our school year, the Year 12 Valedictory Dinner. The timing of this is unique at Scotch College in that the boys return after exams and leavers to share in one more celebration with their family and the College. The night is special because it does not focus on individuals, rather on the whole cohort. The theme for the chapel and dinner was 'Renewal'. With the refurbishment of our Chapel and the recently commenced construction of the new Mathematics and Business building, we are certainly embarking on another phase of renewal and growth at Scotch College.

On behalf of the whole community I extend our best wishes as our Year 12 Valedictorians commence a new journey in their lives; a journey that will no doubt hold many highlights, challenges, surprises and renewal.

We have already commenced preparing for the Junior School Speech Afternoon and the Middle and Senior School Speech Nights. As we know these special events include moments celebrating rites of passages and excellence. These events are special in that they represent an opportunity to review our year and celebrate in the successes of many.

As we commence the liturgical season of Advent, it is important to recall what this time of our year means to a College founded on the Christian message of the Uniting Church. The Uniting Church in WA highlights that the Church year begins with Advent, observed on the four Sundays prior to Christmas Day. Advent has two foci related to the general theme of the coming of God in Jesus Christ (adventus - Latin, meaning arrival). The first emphasis is on Jesus' final coming in glory and the need for Christians to be vigilant and ever ready, because no one knows the "time or the hour". The second is on the immediate preparation for the ministry of Jesus embodied in John the Baptist and his preaching. The Gospel readings for the fourth Sunday of Advent always prepare for the Christmas season by recalling the events in the life of Mary and Joseph prior to Jesus' birth.

This time of the year is also associated with the preparation of gift giving. The Uniting Church tell us that CHRISTMAS and GIFTS seem to go together in everyone's mind. For many congregations the Christmas gift-giving begins early with packing shoeboxes to be sent to less fortunate children. Our Junior and Middle School boys, under the guidance of their Chaplain Rev Justine Wall, have been arranging these boxes for the last few weeks. The gift-giving may continue as we place gifts under 'giving trees' in shopping centres and assemble food and toys into Christmas hampers. We also prepare personal Christmas gift wish lists and try to find the 'perfect' gifts for family and friends. An interesting development in recent years is the practice of donating money to charitable causes in the name of (and as a special gift to) family and friends.

Notwithstanding the traditional concept of gifts, the greatest Christmas gift is God's gift of his Son, our Saviour. Jesus came, bringing joy, hope, love and peace: four gifts traditionally celebrated in Advent. At this time of the year, I believe the biggest gift we all have is that of family. I have recently had personal experience as to why family is so important in times of challenge and celebration. As we move ever closer to Christmas the need to refocus on the meaning of family is ever more important. In modern society, the definition of family is no longer as clear as it used to be. Michelle Blessing, a mental health professional states that: ''Family' is a single word, with many different meanings. People have many ways of defining a family and what being a part of a family means to them. Families differ in terms of economic, cultural, social, and many other facets, but what every family has in common is that the people who call it a family are making clear that those people are important in some way to the person calling them their family."

To be part of the Scotch College community already brings with it an incredible amount of connection and togetherness. Let us never take this for granted and always look for opportunities to enhance the lives of those with whom we come into contact. I read an article recently that commented on the fact that due to the pace of life, families quite often fail to find time to sit together and share in meal times. As we prepare for what can be yet another busy time of the year, let us all try to focus on our own families and if possible, assist families who may face uncertainty and loneliness at Christmas.

Thank you to the whole Scotch College community for all of your support and spirit of generosity throughout 2018. I would especially like to acknowledge the dedication and work of the staff who contribute so much to the educational and personal journey of each boy.

I spoke about renewal at the start of my article. This year marks the end of 31 years of spiritual service to Scotch College by our Chaplain, Rev Chas Lewis. On behalf of the many students and their families who have interacted with Chas during times of celebration and times of heartache, let me offer one simple word 'Thankyou'.

On behalf of my own family, Janny, Abbey and Grady, who without their support I simply could not do my job, I would like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you the best for the upcoming festive season and New Year.

God Bless and best wishes.

Dr A J O'Connell
Headmaster