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Rented baby Jesus stolen from display

Mall’s Nativity scene has centerpiece absent on Christmas

Posted: December 29, 2009 9:16 p.m.
Updated: December 30, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Shoppers notice the missing baby Jesus figure as they pass by the Nativity scene on display in The Patios section at the Westfield Valencia Town Center on Tuesday.

It was Christmas morning, and the three wise men and the Virgin Mary stared down at the bare floor at the Westfield Valencia Town Center. Baby Jesus was nowhere to be found.

The Nativity display’s centerpiece — a rented statue of Christmas’ namesake — had been stolen.

Now, Grace Baptist Church is asking the public to help find it, Outreach Pastor Mike Gaston said Tuesday.

“We’d like to get people closer to Jesus, but not like this,” he said.

The apparent theft is one of several reported across the nation this year, with other media outlets reporting thefts ranging from Florida and Massachusetts to Ohio and Texas — and now the Santa Clarita Valley.

In fact, this is at least the third year in a row the SCV has seen a baby Jesus-snatching incident.

Last year, a statue was taken from a Valencia woman’s Nativity display in front of her house.

The year before, pranksters swiped a dozen baby Jesus figurines from around the Santa Clarita Valley and took them to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a Catholic church in Newhall.

Gaston found out about the most recent missing baby Jesus on the morning of Christmas Eve.

At first, church leaders thought the statue was taken because it was Christmas Eve. Some people believe Jesus should not be part of the display until Christmas Day, Gaston said.

But days passed and the baby Jesus never returned. There were no leads, despite efforts to review security cameras.

“At this point, we’re assuming it was more than a little prank,” he said.

Church leaders filed a report with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station on Tuesday with the hope it would lead to the statue’s return.

Sheriff’s officials acknowledged it wasn’t the first time a baby Jesus statue has gone missing, but said they weren’t sure what the draw is.

“We don’t know the motivation,” sheriff’s Lt. Brenda Cambra said.

The church needs the statue back because it was rented from a prop store.

The display, along with all of its statues of people and animals, needs to be returned by the end of the month, he said.

If the baby Jesus figure isn’t returned, the church will have to pay up to $700 to replace it, he said.

This year marked the first time Grace Baptist Church organized a Nativity scene display for the Valencia mall.

The display included figurines that were near life size, Gaston said. The baby Jesus statue was about 2 to 3 feet long, he said.

The display was a hit with the community, Gaston said.

He often found families posing with the statues. Before it was gone, families and their kids even bent down to kiss the baby Jesus figure, he said.

The disappearance of baby Jesus, though disheartening, hasn’t left Gaston with any regrets about the display.

“We’re sad. We’re sorry it happened but we’re glad we had the opportunity,” Gaston said. “We wouldn’t let something like this discourage us from doing it again.”


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