St. Cloud on a desperate hunt for Jesus

Have you seen this boy?

Have you seen this boy? Stearns County History Museum

What is it about the season of giving that inspires an unquenchable desire to steal?

Every year, around this point in December, you start seeing your squirrelly holiday capers: theft for the sake of theft, sometimes on a scale so grand it makes headlines. Just last weekend, somebody climbed atop St. Paul’s Como Park Conservatory like some kind of klepto Spider-Man and made off with the golden ball on top of the glass dome.

Police found it on Tuesday morning thanks to an anonymous tip. It was sitting in a nearby parking lot, stuffed into a five-foot Christmas stocking.

And it wasn’t the only holiday mischief to take place last week. Mere days before the golden ball went missing, St. Cloud’s antique nativity display outside U.S. Bank on West St. Germain Street lost a cast member. To make matters worse, the thief didn’t settle for a wise man or a shepherd, or even for the Virgin Mary.

They went straight for the reason for the season: Baby Jesus himself.

St. Cloud police think the messiah-napping occurred sometime between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning last week, right under the Virgin Mary’s painted cement nose. On Thursday afternoon, an employee at U.S. Bank called the statues’ owner, the Stearns County History Museum, to report the theft.

“[The nativity scene] is part of the tradition of downtown St. Cloud,” museum marketing coordinator Gena Hiemenz says. “People expect to see it.”

The St. Cloud Police Department didn’t respond to interview requests, so we don’t know if they have any leads. So far, the internet has reacted in a spectrum ranging from impotent outrage to mild amusement.

Although Hiemenz would call him “priceless,” there’s likely little monetary value to the stolen Jesus. He’s made of wood and cement, depicted as swaddled in cloth and holding his hands out in a “whaddya gonna do?” kind of way -- in other words, very standard nativity stuff.

But this nativity is rich in cartoonish levels of sentiment: It was literally purchased by pious local school children during World War II as a gift to the city. For decades, Baby Jesus has graced some corner of St. Cloud, never with much security. People have generally left him alone.

Hiemenz is hoping somebody stole Jesus as some kind of harmless prank, with no malice intended. She’s hopeful that someone still has it, and hasn’t thrown it into a ditch somewhere. They just want him back, museum director Carie Essig told the St. Cloud Times -- “no questions asked.”

If you have any information on where Baby Jesus might be (besides in your heart), give the St. Cloud Police Department a call.