We have sayings that indicate our surprise, delight or shock. One such is “things aren’t always what they seem.” Another is “dynamite comes in small packages.” And a third is “you never know how a thing will turn out.”
The saying this blog repeatedly refers to is “things aren’t always what they seem.”
You wouldn’t think it, but:
‑‑Very little snow falls in the heart of Antarctica. The temperature is so low that it contains very little water vapor. The heart of Antarctica is not unlike the Sahara in terms of precipitation.
‑‑The Battle of Bunker Hill in the Revolution, where colonial soldiers soundly thrashed British veterans, was for a long time considered such a disgrace for America that no one would accept responsibility for it.
‑‑An American defeat in the Revolution assured French recognition of our infant nation. The Battle of Germantown first brought together the massed armies of Britain and America. When the French Foreign Minister heard the details of the battle, he felt elation. Having previously advised against supporting the Americans, he now changed positions. “Nothing has struck me so much as General Washington attacking and giving battle to General Howe’s army,” he wrote. “To bring troops, raised within a year, to do this, promises everything.”
Things aren’t always what they seem .
You wouldn’t think it would turn out this way, but:
‑‑The land that gave Christianity its birth—and those in which the apostles labored so diligently and fruitfully—are now the most closed mission fields in the world.
‑‑While Hitler was incarcerated in Landsberg prison, all he did was write a book‑‑a harmless enough avocation—or so his jailer said, for it kept Hitler out of mischief. WRONG. As Robert Payne wrote, he didn’t know the danger in the book. For in Mein Kampf Hitler outlined his plans to conquer the world.
‑‑ President Abraham Lincoln was the single personality in the North during the Civil War who insisted that the South be defeated. When John Wilkes Booth took the President’s life, he thought he had done the South a favor‑‑ridding it of its most ferocious enemy. Yet Booth’s violent act irreparably harmed the South. For, while Lincoln proved the South’s inveterate foe in war, no one in the North was more conciliatory towards her in peace. With his removal, no one stood between the South and the radical politicians who wanted her brutalized.
Things aren’t always what they seem.
I know this is hard to believe but:
‑‑Czar Alexander III of Russia had such powerful shoulders, arms and hands that he could take iron pokers and bend them double—and take horseshoes in his hand and twist them apart.
‑‑There once was a little duck—a Japanese duck. But this Japanese duck happened to be in an American POW camp in Ofuna, Japan. The POW’s shared their food with the duck. At one time it had broken a leg and a POW splinted it. The duck survived, though it thereafter walked with a limp. At every morning roll call, the prisoners would stand at attention in a straight line, and find their duck limping along to get in formation too, always at the end of the line. When the POW’s bowed to the Emperor, the duck would watch their heads bow—and then it would bob its head in obeisance. It seemed incredible to the POW’s that a birdbrain like a duck could have such intelligence.
But things aren’t always what they seem.
It’s hard to understand how small things can have enormous consequences, but:
‑‑No more than 5,000 men on each side fought the Battle of Quebec on the plains of Abraham, yet the outcome of that battle decided the political, economic and religious fate of hundreds of millions in North America.
‑‑In the battles of Lexington and Concord only 72 out of 2,000 British soldiers died. But those small‑scale engagements marked the end of one way of life and the beginning of another for our nation. They were indeed shots heard “round the world”.
‑‑One cold December night in l955, a black named Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. That single refusal, by that one lady, led to the active boycott of the bus company, to the emergence of the civil rights struggle, to fame for Martin Luther King, Jr. and an awareness of black power that didn’t get the name for l5 more years.
‑‑Luther nailed 95 theses for debate on the church door at Wittenburg, Germany, October 3l, l5l7. He wanted a debate with scholars. Instead he got a complete spiritual revolution.
‑‑Dante nearly wrote his Divine Comedy in Tuscan, an obscure dialect that few understood. Instead he wrote in Latin, a language universal in Europe at that time. By that small margin his work escaped oblivion and became a classic composition of Catholic theology and philosophy and of contemporary European history.
‑‑In the fall of l94l German and Russian forces fought a small scale, really accidental, battle at Mga, in northern Russia. But the consequences were enormous. For that single engagement precipitated the encirclement of Leningrad, leading to a disastrous 900 day siege.
‑‑On the morning of July l, l863, outside a small Pennsylvania town, Confederate scavengers went looking for food and clothing. They encountered a Union patrol and engaged it. This small skirmish catapulted the two armies into a full scale conflict that neither wanted just then. The Battle of Gettysburg proved the key battle in the South’s struggle for independence. From that point it was obvious it must fail.
‑‑In San Antonio, Texas is an old adobe mission called the Alamo. It’s unpretentious and unlovely. “There’s nothing to it,” one visitor said, having seen it firsthand. The place itself isn’t important, however. What happened there immortalized it. l83 men chose to stand by, not surrender, an idea. That stand electrified the country, galvanized opposition to Mexico and inspired 900 soldiers as they attacked Santa Ana’s army at San Jacinto.
Things aren’t always what they seem.
I know this takes faith, but:
In the unlikeliest place, in the unlikeliest way, God came to earth one night‑‑from a virgin’s womb, in Bethlehem of Judea. Now…we say Bethlehem as if it were the obvious choice, but only because of Scripture. To many at the time, Jerusalem the Golden, not Bethlehem the non-descript, would have been the obvious choice.
To add impossibility to incredulity, his mother gave birth in a stable. He didn’t enjoy a warm house, with a mid‑wife standing by to offer assistance. No…not even in the best home of the village did he have his nativity, but out in the barn where cows lowed, donkeys brayed, chickens roosted, dogs slept‑‑manure smells in the air, straw for a bed, the night air cold against his tiny body.
Precious few knew that anything unusual had happened that night. The next morning life went storming on its way, people about business as usual and travelers underway to their native villages to register for Caesar’s census. Precious few would have considered that anything earth‑shaking could have occurred right under their noses, without their knowledge.
But things aren’t always what they seem. Somewhere in that dusty, hot, sun‑baked village, and if we walk in Bethlehem today, we would somewhere walk over the spot, somewhere there Almighty God stuffed himself into a human‑form in the life of a baby called Jesus. There have been great benefactors and gifts in history:
‑‑George Peabody, a generous American philanthropist of the last century, gave away 9 million dollars without the benefit of tax deductions.
‑‑Peter Cooper, American businessman, in pursuit of fine arts and science, contributed $900,000 to the construction of Cooper Union in New York.
‑‑John Hopkins left 7 million dollars in his will for a university and a hospital.
But the greatest gift of al, the gift incalculably more significant because it makes more of a change for more people forever, is God’s gift of Christ in Bethlehem, reconciling the world to himself.
‑‑He would alter, not only history, but the eternal destinies of billions already born and dead and more billions to come. Back to Adam would his birth reach, and forward from Calvary would it extend, until it had brought hope to all seeking it and salvation to those embracing it.
Something small happened in Bethlehem that night long ago. A baby was born. Not an unusual thing then or now. But things are not always what they seem. For this baby would be different. he was born:
‑‑God in the flesh
–To reign in us forever
–To serve his brothers, yet to reign over all
‑‑To die in their stead and for their sins—yet
‑‑To be raised again from death the third day, to die no more
‑‑To return to heaven as the Word of God and
‑‑One day to return to earth as Son of God.
It was small—but large with magnificent consequences. And it can have magnificent consequences yet today in anyone’s heart who is willing to say, “there is room in my heart, Lord Jesus, for you.”
Things aren’t always what they seem in this world. But one day Jesus will return from heaven…and then…when he does…everything will be exactly as it seems, for Reality will displace the illusions we all now experience.