KINGSPORT — The theft of Baby Jesus from the Kingsport Nativity scene last week made 5-year-old Sam Teague so sad that he cried, but before the tears had dried Sam was already planning corrective action.
On Sunday evening, after searching two days for a proper replacement, Sam's grandmother Patty Teague and his great-grandmother Ruth Flanary took him back to Church Circle to put a new Baby Jesus in the manger.
Sam also included a note for the next thieves, asking them to reconsider the theft of Jesus because, "We love him and the real Jesus loves us."
Patty took Sam downtown several times this holiday season to see the Christmas lights and visit the Nativity scene.
"He loves the Nativity scene and the story of the birth of Jesus, so he looks forward to seeing it," Patty told the Times News Monday. "A few nights ago we went by there and someone had stolen the concrete Jesus, and it upset him badly. What we usually do is pull up to where you can see it from the road, and we'll tell him the story, but this time when we pulled up we saw that Jesus was missing.”
Patty immediately called Kingsport Central Dispatch to report the theft, but police had already been notified. They weren't expecting a new Baby Jesus to be placed in the manger, Patty noted.
"Sam just got real sad immediately, started to cry, and didn't understand why it would be gone," Patty added. "He wanted to do something about it. We immediately went to a few local stores to see if we could find a baby to put in its place. There were plenty of girl dolls, but no boy dolls. He was determined."
Ruth Flanary, whom Sam calls "Nanny Ruthie," noticed after church Sunday that Sam was still upset about the missing Baby Jesus.
Nanny Ruthie searched through some of her old things and found a baby boy doll that was the right size for the Nativity. She wrapped it in a little blue blanket, which happens to perfectly match the rest of the manger scene, and she and Patty took Sam back to Church Circle with their new Jesus.
Shorty before sundown Sunday evening, Patty and Nanny Ruthie took Sam to place the Newborn King at the feet of Mary and Joseph.
As they were driving away, Sam expressed concern that someone might steal this Baby Jesus as well.
"Sam was like, ‘No! They can't do that!’ " Patty said. "He said, ‘I want to leave a note for people not to take him.’ "
As dictated by Sam to Patty, and then signed by Sam, the note reads:
"My name is Samuel and I am 5-years-old. I was sad to see someone stole Baby Jesus from his manger, so my Great-Grandmother "Nanny Ruth" gave me this special Jesus baby doll to let me bring to put Jesus back in his manger with his mother Mary. Please no one steal this very special Baby Jesus. We love him and the real Jesus loves us. Happy New Year to everyone. Love, Sam T."
They then circled back to the Nativity scene and Sam placed the note between the doll's back and the blanket.
What Sam and his two grandmothers didn't know was that there was going to be a big New Year's Eve celebration on Broad Street Sunday night.
When they found out about it Sam was thrilled by the thought that so many people would be passing through Church Circle past the Nativity Sunday night, and they would get to see Baby Jesus.
"I told him I was so proud that he wanted to do this, but also that everyone else got to enjoy him," Patty said.
Sam decided that the city is welcome to keep the new Baby Jesus and use it next year.
Patty added, "We figured when the city comes to take it down, if whoever took the original hasn't felt a twinge in their heart about returning it, then I guess the city will tuck it away with everything else. They'll see the note Sam left and realize that a little 5-year-old boy had the heart to make sure Mother Mary still had her Baby Jesus."