Second Christmas Day Sermon B.
"He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about. He instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him." Thus speaks the Lord in Deuteronomy 32: 10-12.
I found him in a wilderness, in the great desert of tears, namely in Egyptīs heathenish bondage, where Israel had no shelter neither in heaven nor on earth.
There was the great desert of tears, there women and children many times wept under a cruel heathen's tyranny, for which, as a consequence of their heathenism and ungodliness, they flogged and starved them. These wretches had no refuge anywhere, for then they themselves yet had no knowledge of Israel's God. Gods word was like an old fable, few read and still fewer understood Godīs promises of grace. God had promised them the gracious promise that He in His own time would save them from the great desert of tears and lead them to the land where milk and honey flow. But they had only a dead faith and a vain trust. If someone at that time had complained of his own poor condition, he had, nevertheless, no power to speak to others, he had no strength to lament over this, that the heathens with their ungodly life had oppressed and burdened the children of Israel.
In this misery and terrible great desert of tears, the Lord found you, Israel, and taught you to understand the promises of His promised land, which He had given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What would have become of you, Israel, if you had died in that heathen land and in that unfortunate condition, wherein you had no knowledge of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but only a dreadful bondage of body and soul.
Without a doubt you remember, Israel, how many times you reproached Moses, who through God's compelling began to lead you to the land of Canaan. Without a doubt you remember how many times impatience overcame you during your wandering through the wilderness, when you said to Moses, "Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?" How had it gone with you, Israel, if you had died in the heathen land in your sorrowlessness, as your desire has sometimes been? Would you have ever come to see the land of Canaan, if you had died in that sorrowlessness and heathenism, wherein you had no knowledge of the God of Israel, if He had not, through Moses, taught you to understand that a better land and a better heaven can be found, which the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had promised to the children of Israel who are distressed, penitent, and despised by the heathens, whom the Lord found in the desert, in the waste-howling wilderness?
Now the Lord has taught you these precious promises of grace, which He has given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of that blessed land on the other side of Jordan where milk and honey flow. Now He has taught you to understand that a better earth and heaven is found beside the river Jordan. You now know, Israel, whither you shall strive, hasten, and long, if you do not tire on the road or begin to murmur against Moses, that in the desert there is not water in every place, neither berries on the trees. The Lord has promised to bear you, Israel, as an eagle bears her young, on her wings. When the eagle has such great love for her young, that she takes her young and bears them on her wings, why then should the Lord not want to bear you, Israel, if you take your refuge in Him and give your body and soul into His care and protection, for He has promised to keep you as the apple of His eye. Remember now, Israel, in what wretched soul condition the Lord found you in the dreadful great valley of tears! You saw neither earth nor heaven, nor did you then yet see the abyss, that you would have avoided it. You knew nothing of that land which is the right fatherland, but only blindness and darkness surrounded you on all sides. There was no other food for the soul than old leaven, devil's dung, and the flesh pots. But then the Lord taught you to understand that there was a better earth and heaven which He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and to their seed for an eternal inheritance, and through Moses, began to lead you to the shore of the Red Sea. Then you became distressed and then the Lord took you upon His wings, as an eagle takes her young. In faith you stepped into the Red Sea and there the enemies drowned, who pursued you, but you arrived on the other side of the Red Sea to sing a hymn of thanks to the Lord. Remember now, Israel, that blessed moment, and listen to what the Shepherd of Israel preaches in today's gospel: "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"
In the Old Testament the Lord has borne the children of Israel on eagle's wings, but in the New Testament He gathers the children of Israel as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings; but not many have wished to allow themselves to be gathered. The chickens are careless, they do not understand to fear dangerous places, the wretches do not see far, from where the hawk comes, and eagle's young are proud, they trust altogether too soon in their own strength. How is it now with you, you chick, have you now taken your refuge and shelter under the wings of the hen; have you now listened to the calling voice of your parent? Have you all taken heed of the parent's warning cry? Surely the parent anyway sees the hawk from afar off. Gather now under the hen's wings, when she spreads her wings and with a warning cry calls you! Do you hear how the Heavenly Parent even today cries and laments, "How often would I have gathered you, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings?" Pray now, you chickens, that He would gather you all under His wings and take you into His shelter, before the hawk comes and snatches you away! Hear, You Protector of the chick, when the chick cries in the talons of the hawks Our Father, Which art in Heaven.
Gospel: Matthew 23: 37
We hear from the Holy Gospel which has been read how the Heavenly Parent takes a parable of a hen, who indeed has a parent's heart, and preaches in this way of the hen who gathers her chickens under her wings when a hard storm comes. Now the Heavenly Parent has taken a parable of the hen in order to show how this little bird, whose heart's inclination shows and reveals itself in great love toward her young, gathering them under her wings. So has the Heavenly Parent wanted to gather the children of man under His wings, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but not all wanted to receive this place of shelter. Let us therefore examine the heart of the Heavenly Parent along with the hen's heart and observe First: How the hen gathers her chickens under her wings and Second: How Jesus wants to gather His children under His shelter.
Oh, that all chickens would now gather under His wings! That the hen has a perfect parent's heart is seen from this, that she gathers her chickens under her wings. All men can observe in that, what kind a parent's heart is. Man has through sin become so corrupted that he does not have such a parent's heart, as certain creatures do, not such as the hen who has a pure parent's heart. When the Heavenly Parent wants to show with what kind of love He wants to gather His children under His gracious shelter, He does not say, as in the Old Testament, "Can a woman reject her child, beloved fruit of the womb, so also to refuse from the child the desire of her heart?" Instead Jesus takes a parable of a hen who has a pure parent's heart. Man's heart is not like a hen's heart. Because of honor many a mother slays her children and casts them into a stone ruin. Because of anger many a parent unmercifully whips his children and some parents because of this same anger disinherit their children. But the hen does not kill her chickens, neither does she in anger whip and slay them, but always with love's difficult and warning cry, she calls and gathers them or brings them up with an apparent instinct of love. With a different cry the hen gathers her chickens to eat, and with a different cry warns them of danger, and with a different cry again calls them to her. The chicks, on the other hand, quickly learn to understand the parent's cries. They understand early what is a cry of love, what is a cry of fear, what is a warning cry, what is a severe cry, what is a gentle cry, and what is a cry of terror.
Parents, do you now see how a senseless creature is a hundred times wiser and more diligent to help and bring up her young than man is, who no longer has a pure parent's heart. If some parent would yet have some substance of inclination left, it still would not be comparable to a hen's heart, in which the indwelling natural instinct is pure.
The devil of honor or the devil of wrath are not in a hen's heart, as is the case with man. When human parents must fetch their children, then is Old Adam often with them. If the children do shameful deeds, which touch upon the parent's honor, then some parents have no more mercy in the heart. Do you now understands you earthly parents, why the Heavenly Parent can not take example from man, when He wants to make known His love to His children, but He must take example from an unintelligent creature, who has a pure parent's heart? Jesus has said that He wants to gather His children, not as a human parent who gathers her children, but as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings. Thus man no more has a right parent's heart. The hen has a purer parent's heart than man has. Many think that man has a better love toward his children than a hen toward her chickens, but this is not so; the hen has a purer and greater love toward her chickens than man has.
So cold and horrible has man become that he does not have a parent's heart, for we hear in today's gospel that the Heavenly Parent can no more take an example from the heart of man, but only of a creature must He take example, when He wants to show what a true parent's heart is like. Be ashamed now, you parents with intelligence, when senseless creatures have a better and purer parent's heart than you have!
In this way the hen gathers her chickens under her wings. When the hawk is in the sky, then the chickens do not understand to fear it, but the hen gathers her chickens under her wings and carries them under the house. If the hen notices some grains on the ground, she gathers them for her chickens. If some enemy approaches, the hen at once gives a warning cry and flees with her chickens to a place of shelter. If the hen does not manage to escape, then she gives her life for her chickens.
"Behold the fowls of the air:" says Jesus, "for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them." Behold the fowls of the air, what kind of a pure parent's heart they have! They do not have world's honor as some men do, who murder their children. They do not have Old Adam, with which some parents whip and, through that, harden their children. The birds of heaven do not go before their young with a bad example, as do men. The fowls of the air show us how bad and wretched man has become, and how great love they have, when the Heavenly Parent takes them for an example, and shows how the hen gathers her chickens under her wings when, on the contrary, man is so ugly and entirely corrupted that he does not have a pure parentīs heart, although the parent's love should be greater and purer than all other love on earth. The parent's love wants to be mixed with impatience and Old Adam. Even Christian parents are able to feel within themselves, that a parent's heart is no longer so pure as the heart the fowls of the air have, whereby one sees that not a single part in man is pure and faultless, from the top of the head all the way to the heel. Therefore must Peter also say: "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?"
It is therefore not possible to be saved if the Heavenly Parent is not able to gather us, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings. We hear Him lament in today's gospel, "How often would I have gathered you together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings?" The chicks let themselves be gathered, the chicks come under the mother's wings when hard frost and storms are in the world. The chicks know that they will not endure elsewhere than under their mother's wings. The wretches have no shelter elsewhere, not in heaven nor on the earth. Have you shelter anywhere else, you chicks, than under the parent's wings, when hard frost, snowstorms and storms come in the world? You do not seem to have so many feathers, you chicks, that you could survive anywhere else than just under the parent's wings.
The Heavenly Parent has wanted to gather your children, you miserable Jerusalem, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you would not. So must He lament over the sorrowless and hardened people, that they would not. But the chicks nevertheless have wanted to come under the hen's wings. The chicks, which are small, fit under her wings. Do you see now, how the hen calls you? Come under her wings! Now in the world snowstorms and tempests have come, and you do not have feathers that you could survive elsewhere than under her wings.
There you have shelter, you chickens and young swallows, when the cold weather conies. Where have you shelter anywhere else than under the parent's wings? Come quickly, when she wants to gather you, for now are frost and storms prevailing in the world. Now the spirit, who has power in the wind, has raised a severe storm in the world. Now the chickens and young swallows have shelter nowhere else at all, than just under the parent's wings, to where they must flee. There you have warmth, there you have shelter. Come, therefore, you chicks, when you hear how the dear Parent, who yet has a pure parent's heart, calls you with a sweet voice! With a warning and an earnest cry, He wants to gather you under His wings, until that time that you grow better wings, so that you will be able to leave from this cold weather to a warmer climate; where the sun shines overhead, where there are neither wars nor tempests nor frost, as there are here. There you can sit on the branches of the tree of life, singing and twittering songs of praise to the Great Creator, Who has given you life. Amen. Hallelujah.