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Putting Christ back into Christmas one LEGO brick at a time

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The lego nativity set. Photo:: Supplied
The lego nativity set. Photo:: Supplied

By Darren Ally and George Al-Akiki

This Christmas, Fr John Ngyuen is a man on a mission: putting Christ back into Christmas.
And he’s doing it one LEGO brick at a time.

The Capuchin Franciscan Fr at St Fiacre’s in Leichhardt has been creating Nativity scenes out of LEGO for nearly a decade.

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Over the years, he’s found when it comes to evangelising children, it’s been a powerful tool.

“When I was a kid, I would lose every single piece I was gifted by the next Christmas, but it was all I wanted,” he said.

“The beautiful thing about LEGO is it’s at the level of a child, and it becomes a way of evangelising to them.

“For me, it’s one method of reaching a targeted audience and helping them realise that we can do more than just see it as toys—we can play with it and pray with it.”

Fr John has been inspired by the example of St Francis, who 800 years ago was on a similar mission to put Christ back into Christmas.

“When he arrived in Greccio in 1213, everyone’s hearts were cold, and Christ was no longer in the centre of their lives,” Fr John said.

“Deciding to recreate Christ’s birth in the very first Nativity Scene, he picked up baby Jesus and the statue came alive, warming the hearts in Greccio to Christ.”

Fr John, fascinated by this story, sees an element of fate that he is now carrying on this tradition in 2023, but in a very different way.

“Now the kids—with Barbie and Ken or with any toys they have at home—make their own Nativity recreations, which is beautiful because the message comes across.”

But Fr John’s choice of LEGO has brought its own set of problems: they don’t make religious LEGO sets.

Fr John Ngyuen seen here with a piece of his lego nativity set. Photo: Supplied
Fr John Ngyuen seen here with a piece of his lego nativity set. Photo: Supplied

This means he’s had to creative when it comes creating his own.

“We just have to use our imagination, Our Lady in my set comes from Dumbledore’s body, and St Joseph is Obi Wan Kenobi. The hay is Lego bananas!” he said.

“As I tell the children, even if it’s one brick at a time, it doesn’t matter, as long as you keep building up your faith.”

His ambition this Christmas is to recreate the town of Assisi and hopes one year to see a life-size recreation of the Nativity.

Until then, he keeps busy with smaller LEGO ventures, however his life-sized hopes will this year come to fruition with actors and live animals on 15 December at the Good Shepherd Parish in Plumpton.

“We’re doing a live reenactment of Bethlehem 2000 years ago and then fast-forwarding to 1223 to reenact the scene of St Francis.”

For Fr John, he’s approaching the night with the same creative flair, but with a lot more caution.

“At least with LEGO, rather than live animals, you don’t have to pick up donkey poo, there’s no smell!”

Regardless of the size of Fr John’s tributes to the birth of Christ, it’s all filtered through his faith, a faith he hopes will remind everyone of the real “reason for the season.”

“St Francis put Christ back into Christmas, and that’s what we’re doing, one brick at a time, so just be imaginative.

“Put the spotlight back on our Lord, St Nicholas won’t mind.”

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