There is an ancient legend among the Polynesians about a young man who falls in love with a maiden and asks for her hand in marriage. Among these people, however, before a marriage can take place, the groom must negotiate with the bride's father over the price to be paid for the bride. The price is always paid in cows for this is an agricultural society and cows are highly valued. (I did tell you this is an ancient legend!) Now depending on the beauty and grace of the bride, her father could demand up to ten cows : though no one recalls a bride ever given for more than six cows. For the rest of her life, each married woman becomes known, for better or worse, as a 3-cow, a 5-cow or perhaps even a 6-cow bride.

As it happens, the bride in our story is not a beauty by ordinary standards. Indeed the opinion of the villagers is that a single cow, even an old cow, would be fair compensation for the groom to pay the father. With the entire village watching, negotiations begin. As expected, the bride's father asks the groom for a single cow, but the groom refuses! Instead, the groom insists on offering all ten of his cows to marry his daughter. Of course the father is overjoyed and readily accepts the groom's offer.

But the villagers are shocked. "Why do you trade away ten cows : all the cows you own : for this maiden?" The groom responds, "because I want her to know how much I love her, and how much I think she is worth." It is said that with the passing years, this "10-cow" bride becomes by far the fairest and loveliest woman of the land.

This Christmas Eve we listen again to the story of Jesus' birth in a Bethlehem stable. We recall his tragic death on Calvary's hill. We have to ask God, "Why do you do this? Why do you give us your only Son and hold nothing back?" Listen well to God's response: "I give you all I have and I hold nothing back because I want you to know how much I love you, and how much I think you are worth." All of us 10-cow people here in church tonight : and that's every one of us : need to understand clearly the depth of God's love for us revealed in the Birth of this Infant Jesus. God's sends us his only Son and holds nothing back simply because, in God's eyes, we're worth it! Let this truth gladden your hearts and lift your spirits this Christmastide!!

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