CINCINNATI -- A Christmas miracle - That’s the only way to describe the surprise that showed up on the doorstep of Paul Young funeral home in Mount Healthy.
It was nearly a year ago when a wax sculpture of Baby Jesus was snatched from the Hamilton Avenue nativity scene.
"When I came out the next morning, Christmas day, to check on the display to light up, I looked in and Baby Jesus was gone,” funeral home owner Paul Young said. “It was very much hard to accept at the time but we just accepted it and moved on from there."
The rest of the nativity scene was unscathed. Although Young says that he had to replace the hands of the Virgin Mary.
“They must have been damaged when they pried Jesus from the manger,” he said.
News of the disappearance hit the community hard.
Brenda Mader has been visiting the funeral home’s nativity scene since the late sixties. Every year she makes the visit to see Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the live animals. Experiencing the nativity scene with her children, grandchildren and now her great granddaughter is something close to this Price Hill native’s heart.
"I cried,” Mader said with watery eyes. “To put this kind of love into something and to have somebody mess with it is just heart breaking.”
At the time of the theft, police had no suspect descriptions and no leads, so Young and his staff assumed that was the last they would see the handmade heirloom.
A routine visit from a local florist changed everything.
"The people that deliver the flowers to the funeral home saw, lying at the flower room door what they thought was a baby doll. And so they called inside to personnel and they came out to check, and it was the Baby Jesus that was taken last year."
The arrival of the 66-year-old sculpture came as a surprise to everyone. Young says he still has faith in humanity but the funeral home is taking precautions to insure that the baby remains inside the manger.
"We do close it down at night and it’s locked down. The animals are locked in and doors are brought down and we do lock it now."
And as for the crooks, no one will ever know what prompted that change of heart but Young does have a message for them.
“Thank you very much,” Young said. “I don't care why or who or anything else. We're just thankful that it was brought back and able to use for the enjoyment of the public again."