Stealing Jesus

Regardless of how we spend them, the holidays draw up memories—some wonderful, some we’d rather forget and some that just keep getting funnier.

I don’t recall many details about the day I stole Jesus. But since I was in high school, it was probably like most winter days. I woke up to the sound of my mother’s voice, munched on toast in a fog then slipped on the ice en route to catch the bus. (Seeing icy streets gives me phantom aches to this day.) Come dusk, after more fogginess also known as classes, I went to my friend Andrea’s house to meet with my Odyssey of the Mind team. (If you’re unfamiliar with OM, think math team for creatives.) There, I woke up.

Beck’s “I’m a loser baby…” hummed from the stereo while we dined on doughnuts and M&Ms in preparation for the evening’s events. Tonight we’d do a scavenger hunt, Andrea explained. In OM, making practice activities as difficult as possible was key, particularly since our sights were set on state competition and beyond. Toward this end, baby Jesus appeared on my list.

Most of my teammates were atheists, which was equal to devil worship in the eyes of my grandparents—a strict Baptist pastor and missionary team. I’d spent the summer organizing benefit concerts to raise awareness about child abuse, for which I was made co-recipient of the Minnesota Peace Prize. In other words, I was a goody-goody supreme—not someone predictably comfy with Jesus-nabbing.

To toughen matters further, I couldn’t drive yet and the only Jesus in the neighborhood was real, and not in a second coming type way. Mary and Joseph’s breath made frozen white puffs in the air and the little tyke in the manger wasn’t plastic.

Crap, I thought, unable to even think cuss words yet, much less state them. Then I had an idea. I’d call a friend, hitch a ride to my house and borrow the plastic, lit-up Jesus from the nativity scene in the yard. My family was asleep, I figured; no one would miss him for a few hours. And besides, the little dude deserved some respite.

Once the mission was accomplished, I returned to Andrea’s house. The gang fell speechless as I presented every item on my list, including the mighty savior. Sure, I’d found a creative solution—one of the O.M. pillars. But far more remarkable was the fact that I, Ms. Goody Two Shoes, stole him, presumably from a stranger’s yard. And seemed fine with it. No, not just fine, pleased.

Hours later, exhausted and high from sugar, creative tricks and camaraderie, we called it a night and a teammate drove me home.

The next morning I woke to sounds best suited to nightmares. Muffled crying. Serious voices. Something terribly wrong. I jolted upright: Cora? Listening closer, I had no doubt. My youngest sister was upset. Really upset. Before I could rush downstairs to help soothe her, she said something I’ll never forget: “But Mom, why would someone steal Jesus?”

The word crap no longer seemed strong enough. @$%#! I forgot Jesus! 

I snuck into my parents’ room and phoned Andrea, held my breath as she searched to no avail: Jesus wasn’t there. @#$@#$#&$#@$!!! 

I sat paralyzed in my room, scrambling for what to do. I could still hear my parents’ voices, filled with angst and disappointment more due to Cora’s heartache than the missing figure. What my team didn’t know was that amidst my recent do-goodings, I’d also been picked up by the cops (for skipping class with a friend, leading our parents to believe we’d been abducted) and gotten in trouble for other…*clearing throat* …things. Seeing my sisters’ sad faces as the cop car pulled into the driveway had been too much. I couldn’t disappoint Cor, or any of them, again.

I spent the day working up the courage to tell my family the truth, while the term “finding Christ” took on a whole new meaning.

That night, still Jesus-less and lost for an alternate plan, I heard my mom and Cor praying for the bad person who took him. Tomorrow, I decided. I would tell them tomorrow.

I woke the next morning to brighter sounds. Sing song chatter. Laughter. Cora’s voice, this time chipper: “It’s a Christmas miracle!”

Tears filled my eyes once I realized what had happened. The teammate who’d driven me home from Andrea’s had tucked baby Jesus back in his bed. My sister’s joy almost made the ordeal worthwhile.

Deeming my shame and frustration punishment enough, and not wishing to taint my sister’s “miracle” or opinion of me, I kept the truth to myself until last year when my hubby outed me. I’m glad he did, as the laughter it’s brought up since is like a holiday in itself.

I suppose stealing Jesus taught me that although the truth does set us free and hurt stems from dishonesty, sometimes good things happen regardless. Just sometimes.


So, what about you? Steal any religious icons lately? 😉 What turns of events have gone from sour to miraculous? Have you reaped surprising benefits from simply keeping your mouth shut? Do tell. I always love hearing from you…HONEST.

Leave a comment


  1. To be honest, I couldn’t get past the reference to Odyssey of the Mind. Boy did THAT take me back! Love the story, though and can’t wait for more of your anecdotes…
    Have to say, one of the very best (and most memorable) white elephant gift exchange parties involved a religious icon. I still remember how much my abs hurt from laughing the next morning…

  2. OMG this is SO FUNNY! I grew up in a small town in Northern Michigan, so I know of the type of winter you speak. And the kind of pranks you pull in the middle of winter when there is NOTHING to do!

    • So true, Julie! LOL Arctic pranks must be one reason people not only live there but refrain from snow-birding to FL during the winter.

      Prince said, “the cold scares the mean people away.” (But I guess not necessarily the mischievous!)

  3. I am liking you more and more! What a wonderful story with a happy ending. I recall as a fairly young child, maybe about 8 or 9 years old, my brother (older by 17 months) and I were horsing around in the living room and one of my mom’s “good” vases got broken. It was me. I did it. I lay claim to it now.

    Anyway, we stood staring in horror at the shattered pieces of glass, I mean crystal (yeah, that’s it) with our mouths hanging open while my mother shrieked from the kitchen “that better not have been my good vase!” We were both frozen in time and space while my mother marched into the room and broke into tears. In her red-faced fury she demanded to know who had broken her cherished keepsake. Before I could shake off the terror and respond, my brother blurted out that he had done it. He got a whoppin’ for the vase I broke. (Spanking was still acceptable punishment back in those days.)

    I have never repeated that story to anyone. And now you all know – I let my brother get a spanking for something I did. Still feeling the guilt? Not so much.

    Here’s to happy and safe horsing around with your siblings! Cheers!

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  4. LOL! See? I KNEW you had some naughtiness to share, Patricia! I’m honored you did so here.

    Completely endearing that your brother took the heat for you. (And people say chivalry is dead. Pshah!) Thanks for making my evening brighter. Cheers back at ya!

  5. The more I read the more interesting you seem to get. Another marvellous piece that left a smile on my face in the end. You have some darn good memories…LOL.

  6. So, from now on when I hear ‘Psycho Killer’ on the radio, I’m going to think replace those words to ‘Jesus Stealer’ and think of you. What a hoot! You stole poor baby Jesus and LEFT him in a car?

    Did your teammate ever tell on your for stealing baby Jesus from your own nativity? I hope not. The anguish you endured was, like you said, enough of a punishment.

    Too funny.

    • Oh Tameri, I couldn’t be more honored! LOL (I do write thrillers…)

      Thank goodness Jesus survived his cold night of kidnappage. And no, I never got tattled on. Perhaps this post will take care of that. 😉

  7. What I want to know is why you didn’t confess this in your goody-goody post, hmmmmmmmm? 🙂

  8. Ha… I alluded to it. This story actually inspired that post.

    If I gave up all of my secrets in one fell swoop, I might lose your interest. Within a few hours of reading, I’m sure you’d call it quits! 😉

  9. August, what a wonderful story. Yes, sometimes keep quiet is indeed the best policy. When I was a teen we once stole a man’s outhouse. We didn’t go far with it, just a few feet farther away from his house. As funny as it was I always felt bad about it, but not bad enough to confess.
    Great post, and I love the new look of the blog. Well done. 🙂

  10. This is fantastic. I think I’d have loved it even if I hadn’t known you in high school and/or had similar experiences a few miles away, but you did such a great job putting this in a very specific time and place, and I’m all nostalgic now. Which is a good thing, I think.
    So if the plan (as suggested in your comment above) is to keep peeling the onion, is the “*clearing throat*” part next? 🙂

    • Funny how finger laryngitis kicks in whenever I start spilling those *clearing throat* parts… 😉 Perhaps we can work out a trade: your “similar experiences” for my “other things?” Regardless, a treat to hear from you!

  11. Hilarious! I’ve just discovered you through my Wana711Sistas and am so glad I didn’t miss this post. Is the nativity scene still in use?

    • So nice to meet you, Patricia! The Wana711Sista-hood seems like a stellar crew. Yes, the nativity scene is still in use…all pieces accounted for. 😉

  12. thanks for the laugh late on a Saturday night. what a hoot. I can see it unfolding and the goody goody not knowing how to respond. what a hoot, Stealing Jesus. you’re out of the goody goody hall of fame, of course.

  13. Marc Schuster

     /  December 18, 2011

    Great post! Of course, now I’m curious about the “other… *clearing throat* things.”

  14. This is great! The worse thing I ever did was steal a friend’s gnome and photograph him in compromising positions with my daughter’s barbie. Once with Buzz Lightyear as well. I even took him to the doctor for a check up afterwards and photographed him having his BP taken. Sent him ransom notes with the photos etc. He was so sure it was his brother in law and is swearing some kind of revenge. I suppose I have to tell him some time … maybe …
    I have never heard of anyone stealing Jesus before. Classic story!

  15. Lance

     /  December 19, 2011

    Hilarious and poignant.

    Lately? No. But when I was 16 years old, I took a large wooden cross from our vacation bible school play and got caught trying to put it in my Chevy S-10 pickup truck. The funny thing is, at the time, I was quite devout and just wanted to put it in my bedroom. So, me getting busted prevented a creepy factor in my bedroom.

    ok, now you share another secret, HA!

  16. Hilarious! I think I would have kept quiet too, no need to rock the boat:) And I’m curious too about the “other things”. My goody goody self skipped school several times my sophmore year, and I never got caught, because no one expected that of me. But my Mom found out much later and she told the principal! I have no idea why, I think she felt like she needed to confess that to him, I never felt that urge:)

  17. You are a riot, August! I love this post. I was reading it on Saturday but got distracted and didn’t return to comment until now (bad, bad, bad Angela). I remember you mentioning stealing Jesus in your previous post, so when I saw this title I knew it will be something hilarious.

    I must admit this is something “down my alley”. I would have made a good partner in crime (keep me in mind in you ever decide to another prank like this) 🙂

  18. I’m behind on my blog reading – so glad I got to this one ’cause it’s full of LOLs! I still have no good stories to share – not that I never did anything naughty, but what little the was, wasn’t funny or even interesting.

    • You’re welcome to visit any time, Jennette! So glad you stopped by. That you dug the post is total frosting. 🙂 I bet you’ve got all kinds of naughtiness tucked away in you fiction, no?? Regardless, happy, fabulous, fun times are often mischief-free. And often safer. LOL

  19. LOVE it! I had been wondering about the whole stealing Jesus thing since your goodie-goodie post. LOL! Riot.

  20. Well, at least your sister sounds nice…

  21. This is BEGGING to be made into a movie! Awesome title!

  22. Ha ha! I remember hearing about this back when it happened and was among those who couldn’t believe that you would actually steal a baby Jesus. 🙂 Great story, thanks for the blast from the past!

  23. Aw… So touched that you stopped by and read this! Stoked that you enjoyed. 🙂

  24. Kourtney Heintz

     /  December 22, 2011

    Great story! I laughed, I gasped and I held my breath. It’s a miracle how everything turned out, especially that you weren’t outed as the jesus thief until years later when everyone could laugh at it. 🙂

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