By Rachel Wulff

AUBURN (CBS13) — This Christmas, an Auburn church is making a special request about an item stolen from their nativity scene, not once, but twice.

It started as a letter to the editor in the Auburn Journal. A parishioner here for the past 60 years has one item his Christmas wish list: that baby Jesus is returned to its rightful place.

Pioneer United Methodist Church is the oldest church in Placer County. Its steeple stands tall along the Auburn skyline, a symbol of history. But for years, one of its religious symbols has been missing.

“I would just like to get Jesus back,” said 91-year-old Glen Cleveland.

It’s something that’s bothered him for years. So why look now?

“Our display is just not complete without him,” said Cleveland.

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Cleveland’s family helped bring the wooden nativity scene to life when the church was renovated in 1998, finding full-size patterns. “And a friend helped cut them out and they decorated them with artistic work,” said Cleveland.

But the baby Jesus was stolen the next year.

“And then we replaced it and it was stolen again the next year, so we decided he had to keep wandering,” said Cleveland.

Over the years, several other pieces have disappeared and one of the wise men’s camels was destroyed by a drunk driver.

“We only have two, somebody had to double up, not sure who,” said Cleveland.

Joseph was also stolen then returned. But the baby Jesus has been gone so long even the new pastor didn’t notice.

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“Oftentimes people don’t put baby Jesus in the manger until Christmas Eve. So I guess I had never thought about it that on Christmas Eve the baby Jesus wasn’t there either,” Pastor Ginger Foster said.

Cleveland believes in the spirit of Christmas.

“Whether you can see him or not doesn’t necessarily mean he wouldn’t be there,” said Cleveland.

The spirit of giving back, even after all these years.

“I hope they enjoyed him for all the years they had him,” said Cleveland.

“It would be nice if it showed up, that would be a very special Christmas story,” said Foster.

They are hoping baby Jesus is likely in someone’s garage. And if he is returned there will be no questions asked.

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