Once again, the Christmas season has passed.  Decorations are gone from storefront windows.  Virtual forests of Christmas trees have been removed to storage to await next year’s celebration.  Decorative lights have been turned off and the city has lost some that wonderful festive glow.  We are left with memories of hundreds of people dressed as Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, or other variations on that holiday theme.  The music has changed from songs about reindeer, sleigh bells, and Mommies kissing Santa Claus, to the contemporary and often shrill noise of the present day.

Within these Christmas memories we were also reminded of the Birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, though that imagery seems to diminish each year as so-called “social and political correctness” eats away at the religious remembrance that led to this very celebration.  The true message of Christmas has been over-shadowed by messages of buy and sell, movies and games, and distractions; all drawing people away from the glorious tidings of the Atonement that came with the mission of Christ two millennia ago.

The story of His birth is still being told, but the very eternal concept upon which this most important event in history is based, has been lost and forgotten.  The story the world sees now is of a baby that would one day be Jesus of Nazareth; and of a manger with donkeys and cows; and of gift giving, and a star, and angels singing praises to God.

Heavenly Father’s Eternal Plan and Covenant

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we know that the birth and mission of Jesus Christ are at the core of our Father in Heaven’s eternal plan of salvation and covenant with us, His children.  And every Christmas, if we are willing, we are reminded of this plan and eternal covenant.

Significant to the event of the birth of Jesus is the account of the Heavenly Host appearing to the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem (KJV Luke 2:8-14):

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

To the people of the world the words of the heavenly host above the fields of Bethlehem have become simply praise unto God; and over the centuries the tradition has developed that following death, mankind would spend eternity in heaven singing similar songs continually worshiping Heavenly Father.  But the words of that angelic choir, recorded by Luke, were more than words of praise. The phrase “Glory to God…” was not merely an expression of adoration but of covenant renewal. Coming after the announcement of the birth of “a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” the announcement by the Host of Heaven reminds us of the following statement in KJV Philippians 2:5-11:

5 …Christ Jesus,

6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

The Great Council in Heaven

Latter-day Saints recognize this description of Jesus Christ as part of the account where the plan of happiness was established by covenant in the Great Council in Heaven before the creation of the world. In the scriptures we read of Him and us and the true message of Christmas.

(Abraham 3:22-28):

22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones;

23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born.

24 And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;

25 And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;

26 And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.

27 And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me. And another answered and said: Here am I, send me. And the Lord said: I will send the first.

28 And the second was angry, and kept not his first estate; and, at that day, many followed after him.

(Moses 4: 1-4):

1 And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying-Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor.

2 But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me-Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever.

3 Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down;

4 And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.


The Old Testament relates these same events in KJV Psalm 82, declaring:

1

God standeth in the congregation of the mighty;

he judgeth among the gods.

2

How long will ye judge unjustly,

and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah.

3

Defend the poor and fatherless:

do justice to the afflicted and needy.

4

Deliver the poor and needy:

rid them out of the hand of the wicked.

5

They know not, neither will they understand;

they walk on in darkness:

all the foundations of the earth are out of course.

6

I have said, Ye are gods;

and all of you are children of the Most High.

7

But ye shall die like men,

and fall like one of the princes.

8

Arise, O God, judge the earth:

for thou shalt inherit all nations.

And the prophet Job testified of this pre-mortal event, describing it thusly:

When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. (KJV Job 38:7)

The Covenant Hymn

At the birth of our Savior, the heavenly host sang out the good news in “covenant language.”  We know that a covenant is an agreement between two or more parties in which binding promises are made.  Scripture teaches us in the Great Council in Heaven, the one who was like unto God (Jesus Christ) proposed in covenant to go down and prepare a place where those who followed him (mankind) could live, and be tried to see if they would be obedient to the commandments of God.

A Mediator or Savior, was chosen (Jesus Christ), who was willing to take possession of the sins of mankind and pay for them; holding them as a debt until Judgment day. Those of mankind who were obedient, repentant and kept their part of the covenant would be forgiven of this debt and “added upon”; and all glory would go to God.  These are the key elements of this Eternal Covenant.

When the Angel of the Lord spoke to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus, this mission of the Savior was described to them, and was “for all men.”  The veil that separates mortality from the spirit world was removed from their eyes, and “suddenly” the shepherds saw the multitude of the inhabitants of heaven who declared the covenant made between Heavenly Father and mankind.  “Glory to God in the highest” defined one part of the agreement made in that most ancient of councils, “and on Earth peace, good will toward men” described the other part of the promises.

“Peace, good will toward men” didn’t mean that mankind would be without war, hunger, pestilence, or suffering.  It would still be necessary that all of the heavenly followers of Jesus Christ be tried here on earth to see if they would be obedient to the commandments of God. This was the message beyond all others, that through the mission and anticipated atonement of Jesus Christ, our Savior, all of these children of God would be saved from death and hell and could return to live with our Father in Heaven.

Remembering this in the New Year

As we enter into this New Year, let us remember our Eternal Covenant.   Let us look upon each day with: Love one another…; Forgive all men their trespasses…; Do unto others…; Feed my sheep…; Turn the heart of the children to their fathers…; Worship in the temples of our Lord.  Let us learn to become perfect even as our Father in Heaven is perfect.

Just as the Children of God responded to the election of our Lord and Savior with shouts of joy in that council long ago, so did the Heavenly Host reaffirm their covenant as Children of God, and followers of Jesus Christ at the time of His birth.  As we reflect upon and remember the true meaning of Christmas during this coming year, we need to remember that we, along with the rest of His faithful children, were that Heavenly Host; We were there at the birth of Jesus. As the veil between Mortality and the Spirit World was lifted from the eyes of the Shepherds on the Plains of Bethlehem, WE raised our voices again with joy, and eternal devotion in covenant singing:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men.”

James W. Petty, AG, CG is the Board-Certified and Accredited Professional Genealogist, “Climbing the Family Tree Professionally Since 1969”.  He is President of HEIRLINES Family History & Genealogy, Inc. (www.Heirlines.com), the “Salt Lake City, Utah BBB Accredited Business” trusted professional genealogy research services firm, providing US and International genealogical and historical research for a world-wide clientele.

For Heirlines-Quality professional genealogy services, resources, and products including free genealogy, LDS Family History advice and expert answers to commonly asked ancestry questions, visit Jim’s website www.Heirlines.com  for free consultations and ordering custom family tree research services, and his genealogy blog www.ProfessionalGenealogy.com .