Jack Webb, producer and star of Dragnet on both radio and television, was a very devout Christian as well as a patriotic United States citizen. All of his shows, whatever their broadcast medium, reflect a bedrock belief in the notion of respect for authority, whether that authority be divine or human.
The Dragnet Christmas episode titled “The Big Little Jesus” first aired as a radio version way back on December 22, 1953, only two days before it also aired on television (on December 24, 1953) with the same title.
Fourteen years later, on December 21, 1967, as part of the revamped television version of Dragnet’s second season, “The Big Little Jesus,” was remade as “The Christmas Story”. The 1967 version actually uses the same script and several of the same actors as the 1953 version.
In "The Christmas Story," it is Christmas Eve and Sergeant Joe Friday and his partner Officer Bill Gannon are working burglary cases. A telephone call comes in from Father Rojas at the Old Mission Church - a statue of the Baby Jesus from the Nativity display is missing.
Though the statue isn’t especially valuable, Friday and Gannon appreciate that it has great sentimental value to the parishioners so the officers take this case very seriously. They have until mass on Christmas morning to try and recover the stolen item.
They question several witnesses and a suspect but their case grows cold. One of the possible witnesses is an altar boy, played by actor Barry Williams in an early role before he was Greg Brady on The Brady Bunch. Friday and Gannon then question suspect Claude Stroup, a down-and-out man living in a dilapidated hotel, who was seen in the church earlier that morning.
When Gannon and Friday's investigation turns up nothing and they've exhausted all their leads, they return to the church later that night. While Father Rojas, Friday, and Gannon are standing there, the statue is returned by a little boy named Paco. He innocently explains that he borrowed the statue to make good on his promise to the baby Jesus: to give Him the first ride in his new Christmas gift of a little red wagon.
For me personally, the very best part of the episode is the very ending, when Father Rojas explains that the reason the little boy brought the statue back on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day is because he had already gotten the wagon a day early, as it was a gift of the local firemen who repaired old toys for poor children at Christmas time.
The Padre then goes on to state that Paco and his family are poor. Sergeant Friday looks at the Nativity with Baby Jesus, just returned by the departing boy with his wagon, and asks: “Are they, Father?!”
(And yes, as with all Dragnet shows, this episode concludes by stating: "The story you have just seen is true. Only the names were changed to protect the innocent.")
http://www.christmastvhistory.com/2013/01/dragnet-christmas-1967.html. Here, Joanna Wilson also notes: “Interestingly, the MacGyver Christmas episode, 1989's "The Madonna," borrows this same story line of the missing religious statue from the church for its holiday plotline. Surely, the MacGyver series writers were fans of Dragnet - the familiar storyline must be a tribute to the classic cop show and not just a coincidence. The MacGyver Christmas episode ends the same way as the Dragnet story - the missing statue is returned by a young boy who is giving it a ride in his new wagon.”
See also: http://www.avclub.com/article/idragneti-the-christmas-story-aka-the-big-little-j-66909.
The 1953 television version of “The Big Little Jesus” can be seen here: https://w
The radio version is of “The Big Little Jesus” available for download here: http://
Also, the entire Dragnet Old time Radio Series is available online at: https://archive.org/details/Dragnet_OTR.