by Margaret Meyerkort
In the time when the Jesus Child lived among [people], the earth was beginning to die; the stout oaks could no longer withstand the storm; the delicate aspens shook as with an ague, and the flowers opened their blossoms only to gaze at the sun and wither away. Men and women wandered over the earth with sad hearts and listless eyes.
Only the Jesus Child knew that the earth would not die for he had come to bring life and hope. So he called the animals to him and said, "Which of you will be my messenger and journey through the world saying to everyone you meet, 'The earth will live anew, for the Christ Child has come'."
Then all the animals pressed around him saying, "Send me, send me." The Jesus Child saw that it would be difficult to choose so he said, "The one who can most quickly circle the earth and return shall be my chosen messenger."
Then the wild stag thought "I am the fleetest afoot—I shall win the race." And he went bounding over the hills. But when he came to the rocky highlands, he could not resist leaping over crag and burn and so happy was he in his game that he forgot the passing of the hours.
The salmon said to himself "I can dart through the water, and float with the tide—I shall far outstrip the heavy-footed beasts." But when he saw the sunbeams sparkling on the stream, he thought they were golden flies. All day long he leapt, hoping to catch the bright winged vagrants. And so the day turned to its close.
The hawk exulted "I am the swiftest of all who circle the earth." And he shot like an arrow through the blue. But suddenly his keen eye saw a tiny field mouse creeping among the corn. Straight as a plummet, he swooped—his journey was forgotten in the joy of the chase.
Only the hare kept quietly on his way. Turning neither to right nor left, gazing ever before him, he steadfastly held his course, and just as the sun was setting, he completed the circle of the earth. Thus it was that the hare became the messenger of the Jesus Child.
But when our Lord told him to bear the good tidings to all [humankind], the hare was overcome with fear. "How shall I make them believe me?" Then the Jesus Child asked the raven for the gift of one of his eggs. "Show them this egg," said our Lord "and say, 'Just as the golden yolk shines in the egg, so the child who has come from heaven, has brought the light of the sun to earth and the earth will not die but live anew'." Then the hare set forth upon his way with joy.
For many years the hare journeyed from place to place telling the glad news and at last he come back to the hills of Palestine. But when he returned he found that Christ had already died upon the cross and his body had been laid in the dark earth. But the hare knew the wonderful truth. He knew that just as the golden yolk is hidden within the egg, so the light of heaven was now to be found in the innermost heart of the earth.
So it is that every Spring the hare is still the messenger of joy and brings us the Easter egg.
By Margaret Meyerkort, Wynstones School, Whaddon, Gloucester, UK., from Spring: A collection of Poems, Songs and Stories for young children, Jennifer Aulie and Margaret Meyerkort, eds, copyright © 1978, 1983, 1999, reprinted 2005 Wynstones Press. Used by permission.