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HYMN 331 Jesus from Nazareth/Jesus från Nasaret

Swedish: Jesus från Nasaret går här fram

Matthew 11:2-6

Mosaic of Jesus healing the Blind man

Text: Anders Frostenson (1906-2006). Tune: Gustav Nordquist (1886-1949)

1. Jesus from Nazareth comes to us;

Just as in former days,

Comes to release us from sin and shame,

Comes to give strength and peace.

See, God’s kingdom is near us.

2. He comes to give all the poor his wealth;

He helps the blind to see,

Those who are captive to weariness,

He makes them glad and free.

See, God’s kingdom is near us.

3. Open your hearts to repent and pray;

Open each secret place.

Ready yourself to receive God’s Son.

Trust his amazing grace.

See, God’s kingdom is near us.

Tr. Gracia Grindal


The end of Epiphany, the beginning of Lent. This last Sunday used to be called Quinquagesima because it was fifty days before Easter. Mardi Gras, or carnival, is also part of the next days. For the church it marks the turning of Christ toward Jerusalem. The hymn refers to Jesus' message to John the Baptist in prison, (Luke 7:22-23) asking if he was the one to come or not. He is doing what he came to do, as prophesied in Isaiah 35, and he will suffer and die for it.

One Nordic tradition that is also part of this Sunday is Fastelavnsdag, or Carnival. We have seen its excesses on television but this year Mardi Gras has been cancelled in New Orleans and Rio.The time in Denmark and Norway, was much less boisterous. It has been marked over the years with delightful things for children to do, something like Hallowe'en trick or treating was part of it. Most of that is now gone. Even without any connection with the Christian faith, many still observe the time by gathering dormant branches (Fastelavnsris) and bringing them inside to force the seemingly dead branches to flower by Easter. Some decorate the bare branches with brightly colored feathers as the picture shows. Along with that are the cream buns (Fastelavnsboller) that go with the day. Delicious!

I first learned of this custom when I was in Norway for a spring semester and my hostess for a couple of weeks was a dear American woman who had married a Norwegian and moved there. She had no idea about anything churchy. But she did love Norwegian customs and was happy to introduce me to this one. So we went out for a long Sunday walk into the woods near her place on the outskirts of Oslo and found the appropriate branches.

We had walked by a store which had a sign in the window saying it would be closed for Ash Wednesday. She had no idea what that was.. Despite her joy in the tradition, the idea of Lent or the church year was completely unknown to her..Still she observed this custom.

These traditions involve fun rituals and good food which kids, especially, enjoy so people continue them even when they have lost contact with the faith. But they do mark for all who participate in them the sense that what is coming is a more reflective time. Several Ibsen and Strindberg plays as I recall begin with people standing in their living rooms looking out and remarking I am so weary of these dark days. March can be too much for many in the north. Ironically, it is as the light comes closer, that people grow more weary of the dark.

In the olden days in the northern hemisphere, the Lenten fast, decreed by the church, in some ways worked well with nature, since by this time of the year, the cupboard was getting bare and people were looking toward spring for food. The root vegetables, now, are getting old, the turnips and rutabagas are growing leaves inside their grocery bags, and potatoes are covered with eyes. They are ready to be planted.

Jesus announces in John 12 that he must be lifted up, meaning crucified, in the same way a seed must die to live. He must enter the darkness of death to bring us light. The next weeks we will be pondering what his passion here on earth means to us as he goes to the depths of sin and darkness to defeat them and rescue us. Despite the somberness ahead of us, as we ponder Christ's passion and our own failings, we can enter Lent with hope. We know there is light at the end. We can see it as the light of the days increases and hear it in this hymn, The Kingdom of God is near us. His coming, both Scripture and the hymn say, causes us to fall to our knees in prayer and repentance glad to receive God's grace in his Son, the Light of the World.. Praise God!


Anders Frostenson

Frostenson wrote this hymn in 1935 just before the Swedish hymnal of 1937 was to be printed. Although it was his first major hymn, it has become Frostenson’s signature hymn. A pastor who was concerned that the language of worship should be relevant to that of the modern Swede, Frostenson began a movement in the Nordic lands that came to fruition after the 1960s as each church began compiling its hymnal for the latter part of the 20th century.

Gustav Nordqvist was a well known organist in the Adolf Fredrik's church in Stockholm from 1914 until his death. He taught at the Stockholm music conservatory from 1925, became a professor there in 1944. He composed many works for solo, choir, and instrumental groups. He wrote both secular and sacred music.


Lutheran Mission choir Gothenburg

Livets ord

Ulf Christiansson

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