Catherine and Colin Puffett are Church Missionary Society workers who are church planting and discipling in Nantes, a city on the Loire River in the lower Brittany region of western France.
Christmas is an interesting time in France. There are beautiful lights, Christmas markets with mulled wines and hot chocolates, all the commercial trappings and the joy of gathering as a community and seeing one’s family. Yet, it feels quite a bit different from Australian Christmas time – the weather being a prime consideration.
No beautiful carols in the park or even on the telly, but with other believers we will be singing carols in the town square in Nantes on Christmas Eve – do pray for us as we do something unusual in the public square. Getting ready to go out means thermal leggings, woolly jumpers, scarfs, beanies, gloves and a proper winter jacket. Being all rugged us has given us a chance to use a funny gimmick to help remind us to pray for the people in our lives – by putting a Lego brick in our jacket pockets.
To take a little step back, our church is using a tool called OIKOS prayer cards. Oikos is an ancient Greek word that means household or family unit. We are using it to pray for the people we come into contact with, in our families, our neighbourhoods, our schools, workplaces, sporting teams, or our regular service providers or servers in shops and people living in poverty around us. We have chosen just one person from each of five life spheres – five people to intentionally pray for.
It is always interesting to notice the relationships we have around us and more interesting to bring them to God and pray that he would work in them and through them. As a way to remember to pray regularly, we have partners/buddies in prayer, but also the option of putting a Lego brick in our pockets. With the cold, we are noticing the Lego every time we leave the house, thus being reminded to pray multiple times a day.
We know God loves us to pray, to bring our worship and our struggles to him. And at the moment, I am grateful for the Lego that is helping me do that a bit more deliberately. I’m also grateful to see relationships growing, seeds of the gospel being sown as a result of this eye-opening prayer. That’s also the fun of praying with another person about it – we get to see the little changes in the relationships or individuals – or even in us and how we are engaging differently.
France continues to be a place of paradox, where a type of “atheist Christmas” exists, with towns and schools installing Christmas trees and Santa photo boxes but never the nativity scene. And yet your prayers, and my little church’s prayers, are being heard by a powerful and sovereign Lord who wants to be known by us. The Christmas story shows us just the lengths God has gone so that he might be known and to save us. So let me wish you a Christmas full of joy – and encourage you to find the gimmick that helps you to pray intentionally through this season too.