The Kingsport Jaycees, who are responsible for the Nativity's setup and upkeep, announced the theft in a Monday morning press release. According to a report at the Kingsport Police Department, it is believed to have been stolen Friday night or Saturday morning.
The baby Jesus has an estimated value of $1,200, and had just gone on display last Monday, Dec. 10.
“In the spirit of holiday goodwill, however, we hope it will be returned in time for Christmas,” said Bennett Little, president of Kingsport Jaycees.
Little added that the figure can be returned by noon of Christmas Eve with no questions asked. If the person responsible fails to do so by that deadline, the Jaycees intends to "pursue prosecution and penalties.”
The Church Circle baby Jesus was also stolen last year, with carvers from the Kingsport Carousel creating the new figure.
According to a KPD incident report, the new figure had been tethered to the Nativity display in an effort to keep it from being snatched. Nonetheless, "it appears someone was able to steal Jesus,” states the police report. A baby doll has since been placed in the Nativity to temporarily replace the stolen, hand-crafted piece.
“For more than 50 years, the people of Kingsport have shown how much they care about this Nativity, by supporting its refurbishment and contributing their time, energies and talents to make the pieces look truly spectacular,” Little said. “We want to honor their work by ensuring it’s safe and well-cared for in the years to come.”