New Jersey has been hit by a rash of nativity-nappings. Churches in North Arlington, Kearny, Lyndhurst and Newark have had their Baby Jesuses stolen from the manger scenes in front of their churches.
Tradition says that you’re not supposed to place the infant Jesus in His manger until Christmas morning; it’s part of the mystery, the say. The mystery in New Jersey is why thieves would steal Him, in the first place.
If you’ve ever priced a nativity scene, you’ll know why the thieves were so interested. Nativity scenes are an expensive deal. The larger the statues, the more elaborate the scene, the more ornate and colorful the figures, the higher price. A modest indoor set can go for anywhere from $50 to $100. Better sets (that come with the stable) are priced from $150 upwards.
Statuary outdoor nativity scenes, with three-dimensional statuary start at $200 and climb upwards. The price for just Mary, Joseph and Jesus statuary is about $600. Adding the Wise Men, the Shepherds, the sheep and other critters can run into the thousands.
If you figure Jesus is worth a little more in that $600 set, that’s $400 for Baby Jesus. The more expensive the set, the higher the price for the infant. That’s not just kidnapping but highway robbery.
The average family couldn’t afford such a nativity scene. For the middle class family, there are inflatable, lighted nativity scenes, about $200 to $300. For the poor, there are painted metal sets or silhouette nativity scenes. I have a painted metal set, myself, which cost about $50.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Who else do you really need? Of course, I have an indoor nativity. But only guests in my home see the Baby Jesus there. Outside, the whole complex – everyone, that is to say, who comes to dump their garbage or has made a wrong turn into our complex – can see this humble scene.
They were only “decorations” I had the time, energy or desire to set up this year.
What are the thieves going to do with the Baby Jesus? They might pray to Him for forgiveness (“Thou shalt not steal.”). The churches from which they were stolen are high-crime areas. Perhaps St. Nicholas, the patron saint of thieves (thieves “stole” Nicholas’ body from his crypt in Myra, Turkey, knowing that the Muslims were about to invade and Nicholas’ last wish was to not allow his body to be defiled by the invaders), can intercede on their behalf.
The scene-stealers really ought to consider returning the Baby Jesus to his caretakers, lest the real McCoy show up, demanding what is His – their souls.