A Promise of Healing, Freedom, and Joy

Have you ever received a star word? Some churches celebrate Epiphany by passing out stars with printed words to everyone in the congregation. Each star word is different—“delight,” “compassion,” “giving,” or some other word that’s meant to be a surprising and beautiful gift to ponder and carry into the new year. Just as the star served to guide the magi to Jesus, so a star word can serve as a kind of guide for our reflection and prayer.

For 2021, my one word is healing, but when a friend offered to send me a postcard with a star word to celebrate her new blog and newsletter, I eagerly signed up. Why couldn’t I have two words this year? After all, I love the way Melanie Weldon-Soiset describes her blog as “connecting curious people with prayer and poetry so that we can find our true homes.” I was curious to find out what star word she might send me.

It takes a while for a small postcard to cross the continent and cross the border from Washington, D.C. to where I live. But finally my star word arrived:


What kind of word was that? Was it meant to be the wing of a bird, the wing of an angel, or maybe a reference to being spontaneous and winging it? And why did the wings have flowers on them? Or were those careful cut-outs even meant to be literal wings?

When I turned the postcard over, I saw that Melanie had written a short personal message that included this line: “I am praying that God may bring inspiration, insight, and imagination through this star word.”

As I walked back from our mail box, a scrap of a song came to me: “Risen with healing in his wings.” There was my inspiration! My one word of the year and my newly arrived star word suddenly came together in the same simple phrase. “Risen with healing in his wings”—wasn’t that part of a Christmas carol? And wasn’t that a quote from one  of the Old Testament prophets?

Sure enough, when I got home I found the phrase at the start of the third verse of Hark the Herald Angels Sing:

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth.

I found the Scripture reference too in Malachi 4:2:

But for you who fear my name,
the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings.
And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.
(New Living Translation)

Wow! Not only do I have two words for this year that fit together beautifully—I also have a Scripture verse with a promise of healing, freedom, and joy.

In the book of Malachi, the “Sun of Righteousness” remains unidentified, but the words of the Christmas carol clearly identify this “Sun” as the Prince of Peace who laid aside his glory to be born on earth and to raise us up. It is Jesus who “will rise with healing in his wings.”

With a little more digging, I also discovered that the word translated as “wing” in Malachi 4:2 may also be translated as “skirt, hem, edge, extremity.” So we might think of the wings of the sun as the rays at its edges. The wings of a cloak is its hem or edge, so some relate Malachi 4:2  to the woman who is healed by Jesus when she touches “the edge of his cloak” (Luke 8:40-48).

Four hundred years ago Matthew Henry wrote in his Commentary:

Christ came into the world to be the great physician, yea, and the great medicine too, both the balm in Gilead and the physician there. When he was upon earth, he went about as the sun in his circuit, doing this good; he healed all manner of sicknesses and diseases among the people; he healed by wholesale, as the sun does. He shall arise with healing in his skirts; so some read [Malachi 4:2], and they apply it to the story of the woman’s touching the hem of his garment, and being thereby made whole.

“I Shall Be Whole” Copyright by Al Young.  All Rights Reserved.  Courtesy of Al Young Studios.

I love all of these connections: Jesus, the “Sun of Righteousness” has come with healing in his wings for the woman in the gospel story who reached out for the edge of his cloak, has come with healing in his wings for you, for me, for our hurting world. Healing, freedom, and joy await us!

Thank you, Melanie, for my star word that has already become so rich in meaning for me. And readers, if you’re curious about prayer, poetry, and finding your true home, please do check out Melanie Weldon-Soiset’s website and blog.

To close today, I offer this prayer for healing based on Malachi 4:2. For all those seeking healing, may these words bless and encourage you as you pray:

Dear Jesus,
the Sun of Righteousness,
you healed the women who dared to touch the edge of your cloak.
Like her, we dare to pray for healing,
to reach out in desperate hope.
Touch all our weary, aching places,
and make us whole.
Shine your light!
Grant healing.
Grant freedom.
Grant joy.

Writing/Reflection Prompt: Do you have a star word or one word for this year? Why or why not?


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15 thoughts on “A Promise of Healing, Freedom, and Joy

  1. Those two words came together so beautifully, April! That was a God moment for sure! My Good News Bible simply translates the Malachi passage as “my saving power will rise on you like the sun and bring healing like the sun’s rays.” That saving power certainly came through Jesus who wants to heal us of all our diseases.

    1. Yes, truly a God moment, Elfrieda! I love the intricacies of the original languages of Scripture and discovering connections that I might not otherwise notice. And I love the way the Good News version makes it clear that the wings of the sun are the sun’s rays. Thank you for sharing.

      1. I also love considering that the sun’s rays are wings. Yes, the Greek and Hebrew words have so many beautiful layers of meaning that our various English translations can help us to discover. Thank you for offering some comparisons here!

  2. What tremendous meanings those two words hold! And I hear that your husband has finished his one (or two) series of radiation. Now we are praying for healing for him as well –as I pray for my son when his check-up will come.
    And these words of “healing in his wings” are also for me ON BEHALF OF OTHERS! What peace and delight!
    THANK YOU for sharing.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Sue! Yes, we’re grateful that my husband has now finished his series of radiation treatments, and we are waiting for next steps in his treatment plan. We appreciate your prayers for healing for him, and I pray for your son and his next check-up. It’s a privilege to pray for others, and to know the peace and delight of God’s promise.

  3. April,
    A timely piece – aligned congruently with matters on my mind, these days, with regard to my mother’s dementia, now with colon cancer added; my spouse’s currently “unstable” health issues, upcoming tests, as well this morning’s conversations with friend(s) whose of-late experiences of church are described as “parking lot gravel rash without analgesics” (paraphrased).

    Continuing to pray for Gary’s healing as you walk with one another on this path toward healing. May holy wholeness be yours, in the midst of uncertainties.

    1. Thank you for your words of prayer and blessing, and for sharing some of the concerns for your family and friends. I pray for healing on their behalf as well, for wholeness of body, mind, soul, and spirit, for wholeness in the faith community and in the world. May holy wholeness also be yours in the midst of upcoming tests and many uncertainties.

  4. That is so beautiful and so true. I needed that very inspirational and such a great analogy. 🙏🙏👐👐🦋🦋it’s so ironic when my mom passed on January 17th in the back of her obituary card..I put the afterglow which says I’d like the memory of me to be a happy one, I’d like to leave an afterglow of smiles when my life is done, I’d like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways, of of happy times and laughing times and bright and sunny days, I’d like the tears of those who grieve to dry, to dry before the sun of happy memories that I leave when my life is done. so I know this was a sign for me that I picked the right saying,🙏👐

    1. Thank you for sharing, Kimberley. I’m sorry to hear of your mother’s passing and send my sincere condolences as you remember and mourn. Yet the afterglow shines in your words and your beautiful response here. May you be comforted by many happy memories.

    2. What a beautiful image of the afterglow, which sounds like the wings of the sun ray’s above. Thank you for sharing that lovely image, and may you and your family know God’s mercy in this time of mourning.

  5. I enjoyed reading this and your discovery of words/scriptures that now have new meaning. I visited the poet’s website and it is worth discovering too. Thanks!

    A sidenote, out of our worship experiences during Covid (our service is online only on Facebook), I’m amazed that it can be as meaningful as it is which struck me this morning when I found a hymn — actually what we’re using as a benediction song during this Epiphany period–echoing and playing in my mind from Sunday. There has been a lot of talk/reflection on how important corporate singing is to our worship of God, and was happily surprised that music can still reach out to pull us back into the recent worship experiences we have. Just a thought and wanted to share it here–appropriate/on subject or not!

    1. Thanks, Melodie, and I love your sidenote on the way songs can stay with us or come back to us. That was my experience with the line from Hark the Herald Angels Sing which I’m sure I sung and/or heard several times in the Christmas season, then came back to me as I pondered healing and wing. I love when those connections happen.

    2. Thank you for your comments, Melodie. I’ve also felt some grief with COVID due to the lack of in-person singing. While I support my church’s decision to continue to meet only virtually, I still grieve the loss of community worship. I’ve actually written some poetry about that grief, and I also find some comfort in singing worship songs, even by myself, at home. But I do look forward to the time when it’s safe to sing together again. Have you discovered any practices that have helped you regarding restrictions around in-person singing?

  6. April, the wording of your post and the coming together of your words, “healing” and “wing,” is uplifting. So many have fought depression and poor mental health (including me) during this pandemic, and there are those who still fight the after-effects of Covid-19, and we fight the struggle with anxiety while waiting for the vaccine. And outside the pandemic and its struggles are people like you and your husband who have fought other types of health issues this past year. I’m assuming while writing this post you thought on most of these things, and God presented you with what you needed to write. That’s just the kind of woman you are!

    1. Thank you for your generous comment, Sherrey, and my apologies for this late response. Life has been overwhelming for all of the reasons that you mention, and somehow the pandemic seems to make everything take longer, so I’m replying to you only now. As you note, this time has intensified the challenges of depression, anxiety, and other mental and physical health concerns. But I’m grateful that the wings of healing described in Scripture can cover all of those and more! I’m counting on that as our healing journey continues, and know that God is faithful.

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