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Some Christians shun Easter celebrations

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Some Christians shun Easter celebrations

By Chuck Flagg | Gilroy Dispatch

As the earliest rays of the dawning sun appear in the sky April 24, hundreds of millions of Christians will celebrate their most holy day of the year, Easter Sunday. It commemorates the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ, symbolizing the promise that all Christians can also triumph over death.

But a week earlier, April 17, members of the Jehovah's Witnesses will celebrate their most important date, the annual memorial of Jesus' death known as "the Lord's Evening Meal." Although Easter is observed by many more people and ingrained in our society by such customs as the Easter bunny, Easter egg hunts and candy treats, Jehovah's Witnesses hold firm to their belief that the celebration of Easter is a mistake based on paganism rather than a close reading of the Bible.

According to "The Watchtower," Jesus celebrated the Jewish holiday of Passover just a few hours before he died, and he established a special meal to commemorate his death. This observance became known as "the Lord's Evening Meal," and in the Gospel of Luke he commanded his followers to "Do this in memory of me." Thus, this commemoration should be repeated each year at the same time.

In the Old Testament, days began at sunset and ended at the next sunset. Also, a lunar calendar that divided months according to new moons was used. The Passover occurred on the 14th day of the month of Nisan, and each year Witnesses calculate what date on our modern calendar corresponds to Nisan 14.

So at 7:30 p.m. local time April 17, Witnesses around the world will gather, usually in Kingdom Halls (congregational meeting buildings) for this special observance held once a year. The ceremony will be marked by simplicity and reverence.

After an opening hymn based on a Bible passage, the congregation will be addressed by a lay-leader (Jehovah's Witnesses have no paid clergy - all baptized members are considered ministers). Much of what is said would be doctrine familiar to all Christians: Adam's creation free from sin, his fall from grace, Jesus' offering of himself to ransom humans from death.

At the front of the auditorium there will be a plain wooden table with four glasses of red wine, four trays of unleavened bread and a vase of red and white flowers. After prayers, the bread and wine are passed from person to person throughout the auditorium. The only people who consume the bread and wine are those who know for certain that they have been chosen to go to heaven at the end of earthly time. Others reverently pass the elements along.

Of the millions of people attending this rite, only a few thousand will partake. Those who feel themselves unworthy to consume of these emblems of Jesus' body and blood are in no way considered inferior or damned. They will enjoy "everlasting life on an earthly paradise" as the "other sheep" Jesus spoke of.

Although this annual ritual is usually held in Kingdom Halls, this year the Morgan Hill congregations will meet at the Community and Cultural Center (1700 Monterey St.). Call the Kingdom Halls in Hollister (831-637-0956) and Gilroy (408-842-0519) for information about their celebrations.

The Jehovah's Witnesses organization, officially known as the Watchtower Society and headquartered in Brooklyn, N.Y., was founded in 1879 by Charles Taze Russell. The church has experienced throughout its history persecution due to its vigorous stand for Christian neutrality in government affairs (no voting or running for political office), prohibition of military service and other distinctive practices such as rejection of the cross (as a pagan symbol).

Today there are some 18 million Witnesses and guests meeting in 107,000 congregations in 236 countries around the world. Members are widely known for the personal visits they make door-to-door distributing two publications: "The Watchtower" (printed in 188 languages) and "Awake" (83 languages). They also offer home Bible study to those who want to know more about Jesus.

For more information, visit www.watchtower.org

Article Source: Gilroy Dispatch

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