Text: Otis Leon McCoy (1897-1995?) Tune: African American Spiritual
Refrain: All night, all day, Angels watching over me, my Lord. All night, all day, Angels watching over me.
1 Now I lay me down to sleep. Angels watching over me, my Lord. Pray the Lord my soul to keep. Angels watching over me. R/
2 Lord, stay with me through the night. Angels watching over me, my Lord. Wake me with the morning light. Angels watching over me. R/
MEDITATION Today is Michaelmas. It marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter in the old European calendars and when the fall term of school began. It was the day in the north that all the food had to be in the house ready for the winter. There were special foods and drinks for the day.
The archangel Michael is the first of the angels. He appears in the book of Daniel, Jesus sees him casting the devil out of heaven and he is also in Revelation. Given his strength and power as the emissary of God, he is of course the protector. One wants him around! Luther, in his morning and evening prayer prays that God’s Holy Angel will be there to protect us from the evil one. His main weapon, Luther says, is God's Word.
Medieval iconography always pictures him with a scale or weight as he is the one who meets us in heaven to judge us. The scale will say whether we will make it or are found wanting. This is where Lutherans part company from the tradition—no matter what our deeds, or sins, Jesus’ grace covers all our debts when repented.
Still, to think of angels is to think of the invisible powers working around us for good or ill. Many people can tell the story of a guardian angel that saved the day by doing something that defied all reason but happened—all for the benefit of the good.
Of course, we tell children about the guardian angel that is with them at all times. As we say our evening prayers and bid them a good night, we often assure them everything will be all right because Jesus is there, or his messenger, the Holy Angel. (A colleague of mine told the story of reassuring his son saying he would be okay through the night because Jesus was there, and the child wept, “Oh, no! Not him too!”)
Michalemas is also associated with harvest and thanksgiving festivals. As the house is filled with good things, one is thankful that once again God has provided what we need to survive the winter.
Despite the quarantine and the unrest, God has continued to shower sun and rain upon us so the crops could grow and life continue to flourish. I have had occasion to ask God to send the Angel Michael to watch over me and the family these past months especially. On my wall I have an icon of him. Our guardian angel continues to watch over us and keep us. Thus we can sing the song for today, knowing that the Angel Michael and his troops are all powerful and great. He cast out the devil from heaven. He can certainly keep him out of our daily lives. All night and all day angels watching over me, my Lord. Thanks be to God.
HYMN INFO Once again, we have no idea where the tune comes from except the folk. McCoy, the writer of the text is known, but his death date is not clear. He was very well known in his time. He attended the James D. Vaughan Conservatory in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, a school dedicated to the Southern Gospel sound. He sang in the Vaughn Radio Quartets. He was a minister in the Church of God and served as editor of the Church of God Publishing House in Tennessee. He continued to sing tenor solos after his retirement in 1961. One can see in the links how it's possible to riff on the lines and put almost any other song into the song itself.
Florida Gospel Choir
Ray Charles and André Crouch plus choir
John Alton Boutwell