[This post pertains to the 2007 Memorial Celebration of Christ's death, The date of succeeding ones will likely be different.]
For the first time in memory, congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses are inviting people to the celebrate with them the memorial of Christ's death, this year to be observed Monday April 2nd, after sundown. Of course, we've long invited persons of known interest to the memorial, but this year the invitation goes out to everyone. A special flyer is prepared for the purpose.
Christ's birthday (Christmas) and resurrection (Easter) are the two religious holidays folks never miss, the only time many of them set ever foot in a church. Oddly, Jesus never said a word about either. The one event he did say should be remembered, the anniversary of his death, is ignored.
"Keep doing this in remembrance of me," he instructed his disciples, only hours before his death, during the meal commonly called the 'Last Supper.' Luke 22:19
But isn't celebrating his resurrection close enough? That date's only three days after his death. Besides, it's more upbeat. Death, we all know, is a downer. Yes, but if you're trying to impress upon people that "Christ died for us," then the death is what you celebrate. Just like if someone shoves you out of the road so as not to get hit by a Buick, and gets hit themselves, that is the event that is forever seared into your memory. If it turns out that the doctors are able to patch him up like new, well....that's great news, but it's not the event you remember with gratitude.
Besides, no one should think that Easter (or Christmas) is in any way pure. The holiday is laced with things that have nothing to do with Christ and come from decidedly non-Christian sources. Bunny rabbits? Chocolate eggs? Great fun for the kids, maybe, but they don't do much for commemorating Christ. Even the name "Easter" is derived from a host of fertility goddesses associated with springtime (when earth becomes fertile) rites of many ancient peoples.
I suppose you could argue that "keep doing this in remembrance of me" is fulfilled in the communion services of some churches, in which participants partake of the wine and wafers. But if you're going to remember something, you generally do it once a year, like Memorial Day, like Independence Day, like Thanksgiving. In fact, the original celebration of Jesus and his disciples was held on an already existing anniversary, the Passover, which event recalled measures the Jews took just preceding their escape from Egyptian slavery. Subsequently, Jesus is referred to in Scripture as "Christ, our Passover," which further cements the "once a year" notion. 1 Cor. 5:7
The Jewish Passover is celebrated on Nisan 14, that date being determined from the ancient lunar calendar used back then. Jehovah's Witnesses hold the Memorial of Christ's death on that same date, after sundown. It's always a full moon outside. Being based on the lunar calendar means that Nisan 14 can fall on any day of the week. This is a major pain in the neck to more secular societies which have learned to "keep religion in it's place." (last place) Doubtless that's one reason Easter Sunday is preferred to Nisan 14: it always falls on Sunday and is thus easier to fit in.
Typically, attendance at the Memorial runs two and a half times that of the number of active Jehovah's Witnesses. What sort of impact will this new campaign have?