"Firsts" are special—first birthdays, first anniversaries, first ______________. You fill in the blank.
Mary's first baby was special too, but perhaps for different reasons than most first babies. She knew Who He was. Most moms have an idea of who they want their babies to become. They are ambitious for their kids whether they are "firsts" or not. But Mary really KNEW. The angel told her: "You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end" (Luke1:31-33). To Joseph, the surprise of Mary's pregnancy and all of its implications, came with a similar message. Every father has ambitions for his son—often in the areas of baseball or taking over the family business! But Joseph also KNEW exactly what this "first" would be: "...you will give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).
The prophet Isaiah announced this "first" by saying: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive?" (Isaiah 43:18, 19a).
In fact, very few did perceive what God was doing. Who could have imagined a first of the magnitude of God made flesh coming as a fragile baby to a filthy stable in an obscure village? No fanfare except an announcement to a bunch of motley shepherds. No tweets came through cyberspace except one delivered by star power to some stargazers. No champagne, and no cigars to pass out.
God's "new thing" was a hugely special "first," meritorious of marching bands and media coverage at the very least.
"I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland...I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more," writes the prophet. (Isaiah 43:19b, 25).
Quietly, God goes about the business of making a way for us to be forgiven and restored to relationship with Him. He does something new and extremely innovative, and makes no fuss. He orchestrates a "first" greater than any other "first" can ever be, and only issues the briefest of statements to the smallest of audiences.
You had to be looking to notice. And I guess that was the point. People like Anna and Simeon were looking—and they noticed (Luke 2:25-38).
The quietness of that first coming gives new emphasis to another prophet's words: "'You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the Lord, 'and will bring you back from captivity'" (Jeremiah 29:13, 14).
Most people don't miss the first snowfall of the season. It's expected and it's obvious. But to not miss God's "new thing," His "first," you have to be looking for it. And most people aren't looking unless someone tells them to look.
So Paul expresses our task this way: "...everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent...faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:13-17).
We have the word. We know where to look, and who to look for. And somewhere out there is someone who, perhaps with only the gentlest of nudges, wants a peek a God's "new thing."