“We’re immeasurably grateful to the people of Kingsport and surrounding areas for their help in bringing attention to the removal of Jesus from the Nativity display,” said Bennett Little, president of Kingsport Jaycees. “The Nativity is a beloved Kingsport tradition, and we’re honored to provide it for our city every year.”
According to a report at the Kingsport Police Department, the figure is believed to have been stolen Friday night or Saturday morning. It marked the second time in two years that baby Jesus was swiped.
Last year's piece was not recovered, so carvers from the Kingsport Carousel created the new figure for this holiday season. It is reportedly valued at $1,200 and had been tethered to the Nativity this year to try and prevent another theft.
The Kingsport Jaycees, who are responsible for the Nativity's setup and upkeep, said on Monday that the figure could be returned by noon of Christmas Eve with no questions asked. If the person or persons responsible failed to do so by that deadline, the Jaycees stated they would "pursue prosecution and penalties.”
That will now not be necessary. The Jaycees are declining to state who was responsible, but say Jesus was returned early Wednesday morning and will be back on display with Mary and Joseph on Thursday. A baby doll had been placed in the Nativity for the interim.
“We’d also like to thank those responsible for returning Jesus to its proper place," added Little. "Even though its removal might have been a prank, the Nativity has a deep meaning for many people in our community, and they were greatly affected by the loss.”