"Ye watchers and ye holy ones, Bright seraphs, cherubim, and thrones, Raise the glad strain: 'Alleluia!' Cry out, dominions, princedoms, pow'rs, Virtues, archangels, angels' choirs: 'Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!'
"Respond ye souls in endless rest, Ye patriarchs and prophets blest: 'Alleluia, alleluia!' Ye holy Twelve, ye martyrs strong, All saints triumphant, raise the song: 'Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!'"
Today is the festival of St. Michael and All Angels, a day to celebrate the joyful service of God's holy angels, the "ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation" (Hebrews 1:14b). The psalmist calls on the angels to praise God: "Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His hosts!" (Psalm 148:2), and our hymn issues the same invitation.
Medieval theologians, using various biblical references, developed an angelic order of nine ranks. The first verse of the hymn calls on each of those ranks to sing praise: seraphs, cherubim, thrones, dominions, princedoms, powers, virtues, archangels, and angels' choirs. Yet even with all the host of heaven joining in, it is not enough. Greater praise is due to our mighty God.
The second verse of the hymn invites Mary, the mother of our Lord, the "bearer of the eternal Word," to lead the praise. The third verse, above, calls on the patriarchs, biblical figures such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to join us. The prophets, Moses, Isaiah, Daniel, and all the rest are invited to sing. The 12 apostles and the martyrs, from Stephen onward, add their voices. "All saints triumphant," faithful believers, including family members and friends who now rest in the presence of Jesus, stand with us to cry out in joyful song, "Alleluia!"
Our fellow choir members have been with us all along on our journey of faith. In God's Word, we follow the lives of the patriarchs as God's plan of salvation unfolds and we trace our Savior's family line through the sacred pages. The prophets foretell the birth, life, death, resurrection, and return of our Lord. The apostolic writings reveal the life and work of our Savior and what it means to follow Him. In the lives of the martyrs, we see those who were faithful unto death and received the crown of life. In the earthly lives of the now-triumphant saints we are privileged to see—and so to follow-the example of faithful believers.
And the holy angels? They have been involved from the beginning, when at creation "all the sons of God shouted for joy" (Job 38:7b). Gabriel—this is his festival day, too—announced the coming birth of the Savior, and angel choirs sang a hymn of praise when Jesus was born. Angels at the empty tomb declared the joyful news: "He has risen!" (See Matthew 28:1-10.) Angels have always been there, rejoicing each time a sinner repents. The angelic songs of praise have been going on for quite a while.
Let us lift up our voices and join in!
THE PRAYER: Almighty God, we give You thanks and praise for the service of Your holy angels and for their good news announcements of our Savior's birth and resurrection. Receive our grateful songs as we join in heaven's high praise. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn, "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones," which is found on page 670 of the Lutheran Service Book.
1. What's your idea of heaven? What do you think it will be like for you personally?
2. Heaven's often pictured as a place of endless songs and praises to God for His acts of love and mercy. If you set that idea of heaven aside for a moment, what else might go on there?
3. What's your favorite way to worship God—in song?—in quiet reflection?—with others?—some other way?
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