The sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. – Malachi 4:2 (NRSV)
I’d be willing to wager quite a bit that: (1) you haven’t read much of Malachi before, and (2) you’ve sung chunks of it a million times. In Christian Bibles, it’s the last book before the Christian part begins, and that’s no accident. If you were reading straight through from Genesis to Revelation, you’d read about the arrival of the Sun of Righteousness, turn the page, and there would be Matthew saying, “An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham…”
It’s clear who the people that stitched the Bible together think the healing-winged Sun of Righteousness is. Which is of course the reason that third verse of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” goes the way it does. (I just know you’ve been wondering.)
There’s a reason to appreciate Malachi besides understanding where some carol got its words, though. Pretty much the whole book is an argument between God and the people, in which they accuse one another of all manner of neglect. There’s no fulfillment in the book itself of God’s promise; it would be hundreds of years before Jesus showed up to convince Matthew and others he was the answer.
Which is to say: if you’re currently fighting with God, if you’re still waiting for the dawn, if you’re still wondering where righteousness is, if healing is still in the future for you this Advent, if you’re wobbling instead of leaping, Malachi feels you. If you’re wondering whether God’s promises are ever going to come really true, then you are in the good company of millions upon millions of God’s followers who have wondered the same thing. Perhaps like Matthew you’re bone-deep-convinced that everything’s taken care of. But if you’re not, you’re not alone.
God, I’m not sure the Sun of Righteousness has come over the horizon yet, but I’m going to sing like it’s true anyway. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.