The easiest way for a store to make my wife mad is to have a complicated return policy. She refuses to shop at Forever 21 for this very reason. Their return policy is so complicated that the cashiers will often read it to you when you’re making a purchase, kind of like a cop reading you Miranda Rights. “By purchasing this melon colored scarf you realize that should you ever take it out of the bag and merely make eye contact with it, that will forever be held against you in the court of no returns.”
This type of frustration often manifests itself at Target. There have been a number of times when they’ve refused to make some return easy over an amount in question as small as a few dollars. The great irony is that Target will spend tens of millions of dollars trying to get people into their stores via advertising and then argue over $1.50 once they’re at the returns counter. If they paused for a second, they would jump at the chance to pay a $1.50 to get a customer who over the course of her life will spend thousands of dollars in their store.
That’s why I love places like LL Bean. You can bring a canoe on fire into their store and they’ll take it back. Same with Wal-mart, a store we spend a considerable amount of time in. Although the Wal-mart in Franklin is situated in kind of a pit of despair parking lot, we still go pretty regularly. A few years ago, during one of our trips there, I saw something interesting that I’ve written about before. It was a powerful action that in a strange way reminded me of Christmas this year.
One afternoon, in the middle of an ordinary Saturday, the loudspeaker buzzed to life and a less than calm voice said, “All employees, we’ve got a Code Adam.”
In seconds, every employee sprinted to the front doors. A few went outside to scan the parking lot, the others formed a wall blocking the exits. It was like an anthill had been kicked over.
Because a Code Adam means that a child is missing.
I imagine that most times, the child is found quickly and all is returned to right. That’s what happened when I saw my first Code Adam. But for a few minutes, nothing in the store mattered as much as finding that missing kid. The world of commerce and price tags and sales figures stopped dead as they tried to locate a lost child.
And I think that’s how God is too.
When I am lost. When like the prodigal son, I stumble from the father’s grasp and gaze, I don’t think He cries out “look at Jon sinning again! Look at him failing me again!” I think God cries, “Code Jon! Code Jon!”
And then He rushes outside, hoping to intercept me before I get in the wrong car, desperate to keep me from making the type of decision that is going to hurt me. Because He loves me. I am His delight. He longs, not likes, but longs to show us compassion.
And we are the reason for the greatest Code Adam moment in the history of all mankind, Christmas.
In the tinsel and the lights and the balsam flavored candles we forget that sometimes. It is a beautiful season. It is full of merriment and cheer, but at its heart, Christmas is a rescue.
From the safety and security of heaven, stormed Jesus. From the contentment and perfection of God rushed the Lord. Why? Because God had declared a Code Adam. A Code Jon. A Code Christy. A Code Stacy. A Code Chad. A Code Chris. A Code You.
When we were lost, He did more than just lock a store down. When we were beyond all hope he did more than sprint to the parking lot. He sent his son to the cross for us, to rescue us. And, he speaks this message in a thousand ways every day. He would move the mountains and the cosmos if it meant we came home safe. If it meant we returned to the father and he could stop saying, “Code Adam, Code Adam.”
That’s what I hope we all remember this Christmas.
The reason for the season is a rescue.