The couple that runs the Cedar Rose Inn says someone stole the baby Jesus from the manger scene on their side lawn. They discovered it missing on Monday morning, along with mysterious footprints in the snow.

"We know it wasn't an animal," said Rose Gibson, who owns the bed and breakfast along with her husband, David Gibson.

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She pointed out the "good-sized" footprints that indicate someone crossed the sidewalk and onto their lawn near the creche.

"It wasn't a kid," she said.

They hosted a Christmas party on Sunday, Dec. 9, that ended at about 8 p.m. The manger scene was intact at that point, so they figure that the thief struck late Sunday or early Monday morning.

Indications are that the thief also attempted to steal Mary and Joseph, but was thwarted by the electrical cords they were attached to. The Gibsons said they found Mary lying down in the manger and Joseph lying on the lawn, still connected to the cords.

The couple bought Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus last year. The figures light up internally and are on a timer that shuts off at 11 p.m. David Gibson built a small wooden shelter for it, and they laid cedar boughs on the roof.

Even with Jesus absent, Mary and Joseph continue to light up. David Gibson has scanned ditches, wondering if the thief abandoned the baby Jesus somewhere, but in vain.

"In your own yard you feel a little violated," said Rose Gibson. "We've never even lost a pumpkin. I decorate for all the holidays and I've never lost a thing."

The Gibsons say they haven't reported the theft to police, not wanting to bother them with such a small matter. They aren't even asking for the return of the baby Jesus.

They wrote a letter to the Echo Press with a good-hearted message.

"At first we were very disheartened but in keeping with this joyous season of love and generosity, we decided not to despair," they wrote. "Evidently the person/persons responsible needs Jesus in their lives every day, as do all Christians."