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 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:
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!
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