Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Manger scene attracts prayerful -- and thieves

 


Haines resident Jim Studley was out Sunday with his tool kit, stapling up a line of twinkly white lights, placing the final touches on a local Christmas holiday tradition.

It’s the manger scene outside Sacred Heart Catholic Church at the corner of Third Avenue and Dalton Street. There’s Joseph and Mary, the three kings, a camel, donkey, lamb and cow – with a trumpeting angel gracing the entire scene from above.

At one point, Studley paused from his labors to reveal a little secret.

This year’s baby Jesus is a girl.

Apparently, baby Jesus has been female for a couple of years now.

“It’s all we could find,” said Studley, dressed in his signature camouflage hunting jacket – so preoccupied with his work that he forgot his winter beaver-skin hat. “The male one was stolen.”

Every year, just after Thanksgiving, volunteers remove the manger scene from the church basement and erect it in the parking lot.

People like to look at the scene. Others, it seems, also like to take from it.

In past years, at least two baby Jesus statuettes have been robbed from the cradle, along with a couple of sheep. A donkey head has also gone missing.

Studley thinks a dog ran off with one of the lambs, because when it was found, its ears were chewed off. Other people blame youthful pranks. Or drunks stumbling home at night.

“You never know,” said Studley. “Who knows why God calls you to take things? Why would somebody want to take baby Jesus unless they had some attraction to it, for some reason?”

The present scene is about 20 years old, donated by late resident John Schnabel. A few years back, when the thefts started, volunteers began bolting down the figures as a security measure.

And when they get ripped off, they have to be replaced.

“Do you know what these things cost?” Studley asked.

Residents Dick and Carol Flegel led a group a few years ago to refurbish the statues with putty, paint and shellac. When a lamb went missing, they replaced it with one bought off Amazon.

“It’s a nice thing to have around the holidays – it’s appropriate for Christmas,” said Dick Flegel. “We see a lot of people who drive up and just sit there and look at the manger scene, maybe say a prayer.”

Work on the statue also put Studley in a Biblical frame of mind.

When a stranger asked what he did for a living, he smiled.

“I’m a carpenter,” he said, “just like Joseph.”

 
 

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