Swedish: Vem är det som kommer på vägen
Mark 10:13-16 Let the children come to me...
Text: Britt G. Hallqvist (1914-1997) Tune: Egil Hovland (1924-2013)
1. Who is it we see on the highway
With light shining bright in his hair?
Oh, that is our Master, Christ Jesus,
To him let us run, he is here.
2. The children left playing with jump ropes,
Their forts made of clay and of straw.
And all of the mammas came running
To bring him their children so small.
3. But then James and Peter got angry,
“Leave Jesus alone, he is tired!
Your pushing and shouting is noisy
The Lord wants to preach, so be quiet!”
4. “No, now’s not the time to be preaching,
For I want to care for the young.
For such is the kingdom of heaven,
Now I want to bless them, each one!”
5. He took in his arms all the children.
He hugged them and blessed all who’d come.
His face shone as bright as the morning,
Then gladly the mammas went home. Tr. Gracia Grindal
“Oh,” she said, “The American.” I was standing next to Britt G. Hallqvist near the steps in front of the library of Lund University. She had a twinkle in her eye as she turned toward me.
At the time she was the most famous hymnwriter in Sweden still working. She and Egil Hovland had met each other in the early 1970s as both Norway and Sweden were beginning work on new hymnals. Together they would write many important and popular hymns, children’s Bible plays and finally the opera on Hans Nielsen Hauge, Fange og Fri.
Her parents had divorced when she was a teenager and her mother moved with her to Lund where they took part in the flourishing life of letters at the university. Hallqvist early on showed her talents in languages and writing, especially poetry. While she had been in the confirmation class at the cathedral with Bishop Anders Nygren she had chosen not to be confirmed which the bishop understood.
While she was at the university, she met and then married a man who was studying to be a pastor, something that astonished her friends. She had not been churchly. But as she began the role of pastor’s wife, she started reading the Bible and learning about the church from the inside. Soon she was writing books on the faith for children in the schools and then poems and finally hymns, all the while as she translated some of the major literary works of England and Germany into Swedish. A gifted woman. With a great sense of humor.
Coming to the faith as she did, she kept her sense for what children could enjoy and learn. Her hymns told the story of Jesus, and rarely ever used theological terms. Anders Frostenson, her compatriot, kept sending her theological tomes which she said she never opened.
She felt part of her work was to speak of the faith so that people with no theological vocabulary would meet Jesus and understand, in the middle of their secular lives, that Jesus was in their midst, a rich and full human being whose life moved both her and those who sang her hymns. She wanted them to be surprised by his goodness, humor and love for each one of them, love enough to give himself for them on the cross.
This hymn, Britt G. said, was the only hymn she could think of with the word “mammas” in it. About that she was right. She and Hovland had realized that the hymns they wrote had to tell the Bible stories, not simply refer to them as most people would not catch the allusions. They frequently would write a hymn around which they would stage a small Bible play inside the Family service liturgy they developed. The number of plays grew to be a significant—plays on the Prodigal Son, Creation, Noah, Resurrection morning. We have done two at Mindekirken. They involved a small group of children who do the pantomime of the story while the congregation sings the central hymn. They are easy to put on, with the children reading, acting and singing.
This hymn has become popular; it appears on Youtube quite a few times. I think it is the way the story is told and its wry sense of humor.
Swedish singer, Mario Ouwens