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Elgin family pleads for Jesus’ return

The baby Jesus Hendershott family's nativity corner Big Timber Hillcrest roads Elgwent missing not long after family set up display

The baby Jesus in the Hendershott family's nativity at the corner of Big Timber and Hillcrest roads in Elgin went missing not long after the family set up the display after Thanksgiving. 12/20/12. | Emily McFarlan Miller~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 24, 2013 6:33AM

ELGIN — The Hendershott family’s light-up Nativity scene has Mary and Joseph, three wise men, two sheep, a shepherd and a camel, all gathered under a wooden frame strung with Christmas lights in their yard at Big Timber and Hillcrest roads.

It also has a large sign, handwritten in bubble letters: “Please return Jesus.”

That’s not a plea to keep Christ in Christmas. Nor is it a punctuation-lacking entreaty for the Lord to return to Earth again.

Rebecca Hendershott added the sign to the crèche about two weeks ago after she drove up to her house one day to find the glowing plastic infant missing from its wooden manger.

“In my weak moments, I want to go, ‘That’s awful. Who would do that?’ But maybe it means something to somebody,” Hendershott said.

She laughed merrily, cuddling a grandbaby in her lap Thursday afternoon inside the home where she has lived for 12 years, as she said, “It’s kind of a funny story.”

The family had moved its Nativity from along Hillcrest to the busy street corner about two years ago because there’s “more traffic out there, and we want to share this with more people,” Hendershott said.

She described her family — herself, her husband, their eight children and two grandchildren — as “very Catholic,” active members for nearly 20 years of St. John Neumann Catholic Church in St. Charles.

The first year, she’d laid the baby Jesus figure on the ground, and one night, somebody had placed it in a cardboard box, wrapped in colorful scarves. She thought that was “beautiful,” she said.

So last year, she used the box again in her Nativity. And one night, somebody had placed Jesus into a real wooden manger, full of straw.

“We thought, ‘This is super cool. We’re going to have to put this out there again,’ ” she said.

So, as was becoming Christmas tradition, Hendershott and her 21-year-old daughter set up the Nativity scene, manger and all, the week after Thanksgiving. And not long after, they were surprised by somebody’s interest in their display — only this time, instead of a new bed for the figure appearing, the figure itself disappeared.

“I kind of think it’s my fault for being proud the last two years,” she said, laughing.

Her family has encouraged her to file a police report about the stolen Christ child, but the suggestion only makes her laugh harder. After all, she said, what would she tell police? Somebody stole Jesus? She’d left a baby on her lawn and now he’s missing?

While Hendershott has a good sense of humor about the incident, she said, she’s still holding out hope for a Christmas miracle.

“We still hope somebody will bring it back for Christmas Day,” she said.

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