They had to have Christmas without the Baby Jesus at Tolar United Methodist Church – but the loss was only temporary.
Church members noticed that a small lighted figurine of Jesus that was, naturally, the centerpiece of the nativity scene in front of the church building was missing.
“I noticed it the day after Christmas,” said church member Kathy Nance, whose husband Howard is chairman of the TUMC board. “It was definitely there Christmas Eve because we had a candlelight service (Dec. 24).”
But at about 11 p.m. on Wednesday, it was found outside of town in the driveway of a church member who called to report the discovery.
Howard Nance said that, as far as he knew, the plastic figurine had not been damaged. He had a suspicion about why it was dropped off.
“I’m sure all the publicity contributed to its return,” he said, noting a report on the Hood County News website, as well as some coverage by a major news radio station in the Metroplex.
Kathy Nance had said she couldn’t imagine why anyone might steal the figurine.
“I imagine it was some high school kids just doing a prank,” Howard Nance said.
Tolar Police Chief R.C. Cox said on Monday that he had not heard of any thefts or vandalism involving other Christmas displays in town. Granbury Police Department Deputy Chief Alan Hines said that there was only one case of Christmas decorations reported stolen in Granbury, on Dec. 29. An Aledo woman was recently arrested on a theft charge in connection with the theft of Christmas decorations in the Weatherford area, according to the Parker County Sheriff’s Office.
As a result of an apparent widespread trend of theft of outdoor nativity pieces in various locations around the country, some people have placed GPS tracking devices inside religious figurines. An MSNBC article posted online earlier this month stated that about 70 churches and synagogues in Florida took advantage of an offer from a security company for the free use of GPS systems and hidden cameras for their mangers and menorahs.
Howard Nance said that he does not expect charges will be pressed against the person who took the figurine. Such a theft would rank as a misdemeanor. The level would depend on the replacement value. A theft of $50 or less would be a Class C misdemeanor. A theft between $50 and $500 is a Class B misdemeanor, Cox explained.
“What was said at church was, we hope they needed Baby Jesus worse than we did,” Howard Nance said.
Kathy Nance said the congregation has been putting up the nativity display for two or three years.
“Our little town is just changing,” she said.
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