Summary: This sermon deals with letting go of our past so that we can find freedom to enter a new life in God.
What Should I Leave Behind
If you knew your home was going to be destroyed and you only had a minute to escape with your life, and one or two other things, what would you leave behind? Can you imagine someone trying to take out their new plasma tv, or their collection of 500 cd’s, or their new computer, printer and monitor or their shoe collection knowing they only had 35 seconds left to get out.
What if you had a baby grand piano, would you try to get that out? If we tried to take some of these things with us, we would most likely perish in the disaster. Sometimes for our own health and safety, we must be willing to leave some things behind. There is a freedom in being able to walk away from things in our lives.
In our New Testament reading, Mary and Joseph have probably been married for a about a year or two. Joseph is working as a builder or contractor. He and Mary had not gone back to Nazareth after the census. Instead they stayed in Bethlehem. Bethlehem gave them a fresh start in life without the rumors of them having sex before the marriage vows had been completed. They had left behind some of the gossip floating around in Nazareth. No one’s saying, there’s Mary, the girl who lost her mind said she got pregnant by God.
Life was beginning to look a little more normal for them. Then out of the clear, some wise men showed up looking for their child Jesus. Not only that these wise men, presented them with some very expensive gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It was as if someone had made a huge direct deposit into their checking account. They were delighted and thrilled at this visit and the untold financial blessing.
This may have been just the kind of thing Joseph needed to get his business to soar into high gear. He may have had plans to triple the size of the gift by expanding his business. Who knows what plans Mary may have had for them as a family, but no doubt something would have been swirling through her head.
Yet before their plans could take root, an angel comes to Joseph and says you need to get up, and take your family to Egypt. Herod is searching for the child to kill him, and you have to stay in Egypt until you get word from me that it is okay to come back home.”
Joseph and Mary have to decide on the spot what are they going to leave behind. If they cannot carry it in their hands or on their donkey or perhaps a wagon, it has to stay. They’ve got a 75 mile journey to take in the dead of night, and they do not know if the soldiers are on their way to Bethlehem or not.
I think they realized that the gifts they had received were the provisions God had made for them to escape this disaster. They probably took the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh and fled for their lives to Egypt. All of their plans, dreams, business, friends, and family they left behind out of obedience to the word of the Lord from the angel. They found a new freedom in the things they left behind. Had they delayed their obedience, they may have been looking at soldier’s sword entering the body of their child.
We do not always realize it but there is a flip side to the call to come and follow Jesus. The flip side is to leave something behind. We cannot come and follow Jesus, without leaving something behind. What we fail to realize is that there is freedom in leaving things behind.
In our Old Testament reading, God had been leading His people out of bondage in Egypt. Some 40 years earlier God had brought his people to the land He promised to give to them, but they refused to enter into it. They said, the people in it were too strong and powerful and they would all die if they went into battle.
These were the people who had seen all of God’s miracles in Egypt. They had seen Moses divide the Red Sea. But they refused to believe God could save them. So God told them, “you will wander in the desert for 40 years until every soldier over the age 20 dies except for Joshua and Caleb. Then at the end of the 40 years, I will bring your children into the promised land.”
So here we are 40 years later. Joshua has replaced Moses as the new leader. A few days earlier they had crossed the Jordan River. But the Jordan River was at the flood stage. The moment the priests, who were in front of the crowd, touched the river, it stopped flowing to the south, and the waters kept piling up on the north side. They crossed on dry ground. They all knew this was a miracle from the Lord. The first city on the attack list was Jericho. Jericho was a large walled city that seemed invincible. It probably was invincible to a regular human attack, but they were fighting with a supernatural power.