Upset but not surprised at the antics, Mass sent a message through the church bulletin, asking for the return of the figurine.
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Then he laid a guilt trip so widespread it couldn't be ignored.
Posted for the untold thousands of passing motorists on 127th Street to consider was a simple message on the church marquee: "Whoever stole our baby Jesus, please bring Him back."
"I guess they did," Mass said.
On Thursday, after several weeks missing in action, the statue was returned, unharmed, on a sidewalk outside the rectory.
"Whoever does this thinks it's a fashionable prank," Mass said, adding a word of caution to future pranksters: The church is trying to secure a GPS tracking system for future nativity scenes.
"I'm delighted to have him back," Mass said of the estimated $165 figurine. "But I'm not going to be grateful to the guys who stole him for bringing it back."