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.
Wait. Sun? With a “U”? That must be a typo, right? Shouldn’t it be Son of Righteousness like Son of God and Son of Man? Have you ever had this thought cross your mind in the middle of the Christmas Eve service while singing the third verse of Hark the Herald Angels Sing? Sometimes these carols give us pause to reflect on the meaning of the words we come together to sing each Christmas.
This section of the carol is a reference back to Malachi 4 in the Old Testament. Malachi 4 is not about the first coming of Christ on earth (Christmas), but rather it is about the second coming. Let’s take a look at the prophetic words in Malachi that foretell the second coming of Christ:
“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty.”Malachi 4:1-3
Ok. That doesn’t have the “peace on earth” sentiment we usually associate with Christmas time, but it’s packed with truth about the significance of our Savior. Malachi is the last prophet of the grace of God until John the Baptist appears approximately 400 years later, preparing the way for the birth of Christ. The Old Testament closes with these words from Malachi about Christ’s second coming.
For those who revere the name of Jesus, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. Our only hope of righteousness is born meek and mild on Christmas. It is only through faith in Him that we can be reconciled to God. The imagery that Malachi uses for the second coming is that of the sun rising (Jesus) and its rays of light (healing). Think about the energy of the suns rays hitting the earth each and every day. As we rotate in orbit around the sun, we are greeted with it’s rays each morning, breaking forth and destroying the darkness of night. Malachi uses this visual to relate the return of Christ in the second coming.
The second half of the third verse reads:
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.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the new born King!
Mild and meek he came as a baby born in Bethlehem. But he came to accomplish redemption and reconciliation of all of humanity. And He is coming back with healing in His wings.
So this Christmas Eve, if you have the chance to sing this great carol packed with Biblical truth, reflect on the true Sun of Righteousness and the impact of His birth here on earth!
(I must give a shout out to Pastor Brian Mitchell of Spring Creek Church for his insight about the Biblical truths in our study of the carols and the inspiration for this post :)