Baby Jesus has been stolen from his manger in a town centre nativity scene.
Reverend Christopher Scargill, of St Thomas's Church, St Annes, Lancashire, said the figure was taken from St Annes Square overnight on Thursday.
He said police are investigating but an amnesty was in place and it could be returned to any church in the parish with "no questions asked".
"Christmas is a time of forgiveness," Mr Scargill said, urging the thief to return it.
Mr Scargill said: "I can't understand what would make anybody think that this was a good idea - or even a funny idea - to take it out of the crib."
The Italian figure was in a locked "but not very secure" cabinet in the square.
Mr Scargill said it was particularly special as the scene was a "collective effort" by all of St Annes' churches.
Mr Scargill said he had tried to order a replacement Jesus but it was out of stock.
"Fortunately a businessman and former pupil at St Thomas' Church School, Sam Stones offered a baby Jesus figure last night to use until the original is returned," he added.
Although smaller than the stolen one, he said "at least we won't be without a Jesus in the crib".
Joan Wilson called the culprit "low life scum" on St Thomas's Church Facebook page and Margaret Summerton said it was "senseless".
Stephanie Cheetham said: "Sounds like the plot to Angela's Christmas... sure it wasn't a child?"
In the Netflix film based on the Frank McCourt book, a young girl takes baby Jesus on Christmas Eve to keep him warm.
Mr Scargill, who believes it was a "stupid prank", said: "It would be nice to think it was a small child trying to look after Jesus and doing something good though."