A Feast of Strength – Br. James Koester

St. Michael and All Angels
Revelation 12:7-12

I don’t know when it began, perhaps the first time someone put an angel on the top of a Christmas tree. Delicate, covered in lace and flounce, sometimes with a magic wand, they may be beautiful, but they have little in common with the angels of scripture, or the iconographic tradition through the ages. These angels as ornaments are likely to shatter with one tap, or smash into tiny pieces unless handled with care and caution. Not so the angels we hear of today. Armed for battle with sword, shield, helmet and staff, clothed in armor, these, dare I say it, muscled and chiseled messengers from God, as icons depict them, are far from the delicate beings hopping on toadstools, dancing on pins, or decorating trees. These are the angels engaged in the cosmic struggle between good and evil. These are the angels of Genesis, Revelation, and John.

It’s a long way from the tops of Christmas trees to war in heaven. The sad reality however is that we don’t live in a Christmas tree world. We live in a world all too marked by sin and evil. It has been so since that day in the garden when we believed the first lie, you will not die.[1] Uttered by the snake, the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world,[2] we have been engaged in war, and doing battle with lies, untruths, and half-truths ever since. It is a cosmic battle, fought literally at times from street to street, and house to house. At other times it is fought by two men staring into the eyes of the other, as one asks, what is truth?[3] Still at other times it is fought by politicians eager for power, and willing to say and do anything.

It is this cosmic battle between truth and deceit that we know only too well, and which we cannot fight alone. This is the battle that the One who is Truth, sends his angels into on our behalf. This is the battle fought by the One who speaks truth, for truth himself speaks truly, or there’s nothing true,[4] and all is truly lost.

We know from the millennia of war, corruption, destruction, and deceit that there is nothing delicate about lies. That first lie, spoken so alluringly in the Garden, continues to do its evil worst, even today. And so, the battle continues. Michael and his legions, armed with the truth and the power and the strength of God have come to our defence. They stand, not down, but ready for our call. And call we must, for only the forces of God can defeat the Great Deceiver. This is not work for ornaments. It is work for angels who are strong, powerful and armed for battle. And that is what we celebrate today, so that in the face of deception, we can sing,

Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Messiah,
for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down….[5]

[1] Genesis 3: 4

[2] Revelation 12: 9

[3] John 18: 38

[4] Hopkins SJ, Gerard Manly, Godhead here in hiding

[5] Revelation 12: 10

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