It’s hard to think that such an important day would lose it’s history and significance in such a short time. Michaelmas, as it had been known, the day of St. Michael and All Angels had been a well known holiday for much of history. School calendars were built around it, even still today, many colleges and universities that are on the quarter system have a term called Michaelmas. Jane Austen would write in Sense and Sensibility that they would not marry until Michaelmas, simply using the term as a calendar date where she could assume most readers would understand that the wedding mentioned would be delayed three months.
Yet for many the day will pass without observation. Sadly, even many churches will neglect this day. Part of it is because we’ve become accustomed to doing our own thing. Another part is that the life of the church is largely relegated to only Sunday mornings, if at all. Yet, polls would show that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe in angels a little more than half of Americans believe they have been personally helped by an angel. Countless posts online are made trying to capture these angels in pictures, in shadows, in trees, or whatever else.
In order to grasp the significance of St. Michael and All Angels, we must must go back to what and who are angels. While not told exactly when created, they are created beings. They are not divine. They, like mankind, were created with will. The words to describe their count are the highest denominations of numbers known at that time, words like legion and myriad, really to describe that they are countless. A portion rebelled and were cast out of heaven (Is. 14, Luke 18, Rev. 12) and now are sealed. Satan of course is the lead in all this, as the most beautiful and very powerful of them all, he accuses the Lord of holding back from Adam and Eve, he accuses Adam and Eve of their sin, he accuses us day in and day out.
The reality with Satan is that he stands as the ring leader who turns everyone in and hands over all the evidence to accuse everyone else. In the weakness of our sinful flesh we often succumb to him as he tempts us and then brings our accusations before God.
These are the angels, those cast out with Satan and those remaining with the Lord. This is the significance of St. Michael and All Angels, as in all the readings we see the angels at work to deliver and fight Satan and his accusations. We don’t always understand or see it, but they are here. That’s clear within the Scriptures. Luther’s morning and evening prayer within the catechism would lead us to pray, “let your holy angel be with me that evil foe may have no power over me.” The Lord’s angels, His messengers, live in His holiness and do His work.
As we hear from the Scriptures we probably find something that we would not expect about these angels. Well, many things we wouldn’t expect. We probably wouldn’t expect that every holy angel that comes in the presence of sinful man must proclaim, fear not, as we are unworthy to be in their presence. We probably wouldn’t expect the descriptions that are large beings with many wings that cover them rather than cute little ones with two small wings.
And we’d probably expect that this fighting goes on with great strength and weapons, perhaps supernatural weapons of great destruction. Michael and the angels fight with the same weapons you have been given to stand against Satan, you know the same weapon we sing in A Mighty Fortress, one little word can fell him. The Word made flesh. The Word that Michael proclaims in Jude 9, “the Lord rebuke you.” The Word that takes on sin and death. The Word that conquers Satan and his demons. The weapon that is shown in Revelation used against them, the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.
St. Michael and All Angels reminds us that we are not left on this earth alone, that the Lord has provided for us all that we need for this body and life and more than that, every accusation and temptation of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh are beaten and answered by the Word made flesh, conquered by Jesus’ blood. Not just the thought of Jesus’ blood, but the Lamb’s blood poured out for you week after week in the chalice.
Because you are the greatest in kingdom of heaven. Humbled as a child. Not a teenager, not a kid who knows something but a littlest of children. Jesus uses the word child that is paidion, which means an infant, a child that has everything to learn. That’s the greatest in kingdom. The greatest in the kingdom is not those that are full of pride, who boast of their service, who think they have accomplished much for the Lord and are important people based on your own works. That’s the pride of the evil one, who thinks more highly of himself, and is least in the kingdom of heaven. The greatest in the kingdom are those who need to shown everything, who need to be provided for, who cannot fend for themselves but need protecting. The greatest in the kingdom is you, as the Lord provides for you and gives His angels to fight for you with nothing but the Word and blood of the Lamb.
On this day, the celebration of St. Michael and All Angels, we are gathered to hear that the Lord hauls around His book, points to your name, and directs his angels, “that’s my littlest child, that’s one I love, that’s one I died for, that one is greatest in the kingdom, guard her, protect him.” We are reminded that Satan is not defeated by mighty acts of power and strength but by the little word that fells him, the Word made flesh.
As Satan brings about all attacks from the world and within our flesh, we have the weapons we need, “Satan, here this proclamation, I am baptized into Christ.” When the world’s struggles come, as persecutions and beheadings now enter this country, closer to home, as disasters strike, we are certain of the Lord’s angels with us, protecting and bringing us to the resurrection glory.
Dear little one’s, pray each day “let your holy angel be with me that the evil foe may have no power over me,” that in all things you are guarded and protected that the evil one may not seduce you into false belief, despair, and the emptiness of the ways of this world. That you who are bought by the blood of the Lamb, receive that blood poured for your forgiveness, life, and salvation. That you are greatest in the kingdom of heaven by blessedly receiving these gifts with joy, given them by our heavenly King. Joined together with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, rejoicing in the Word and brought together by His blood.
In the name of the Father and of + the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.