Although the U.S. economy prefers the Christmas holidays, many Christians consider Easter to be the more important celebration.
At its core, of course, Christmas is Jesus' birthday party, and thanks to merchant decorations and advertising, it actually commands our attention for about a quarter of the year. The Easter season, by comparison, is about six weeks if you observe Lent or a week if you don't.
But Easter trumps Christmas anyway, says the Rev. Kendall Koenig, senior pastor at Light of Christ Lutheran Church, Algonquin.
"Christmas is tied to wonderful family traditions, and it is important to people for that reason," Koenig said. "But for Christianity, Jesus' birth is only important because of what he accomplished on the cross and God's stamp of approval on that by raising Jesus from the dead.
"Easter is the miracle that God loves this world and is more powerful than the most destructive force that we know, which is death," he said. "Easter brings hope because God has the power and the heart of love to do whatever it takes to draw the world back to himself."
One of my own memorable Easters began early on a chilly April Sunday on a hillside at Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs, and I've been a fan of sunrise services ever since. They don't seem to be plentiful in this area - or quite as pretty, with the Colorado Rockies as a backdrop - but here are four opportunities to worship this Sunday at sunrise:
First United Methodist Church, 216 E. Highland Ave., Elgin, at 6:31 a.m.; Grace Evangelical Church, 1800 Bowes Rd., Elgin, 6 a.m., along with a free breakfast; Epworth United Methodist Church, 37w040 Highland Ave., Elgin, 6:30 a.m., followed by a pancake breakfast fundraiser for the Boy Scouts; Trinity Lutheran Church, 11008 N. Church St., Huntley, 6 a.m., with a breakfast at $4 for adults and $2 for kids.
Living Last Supper: Cary Grove Evangelical Free Church, 525 W. Ada St. in Cary, observes Holy Week again this year with the "Living Last Supper." Actors portraying Jesus and his disciples recreate Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, "The Last Supper," with each disciple stepping out of the painting to tell about his personal experience with Jesus.
The popular event begins at 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, April 1 and 2, and 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 3. To reserve free tickets, visit www.cgefc.org.
Good Friday: Many congregations will observe Good Friday in their own way, but about 20 will come together Friday night for an ecumenical service at Second Baptist Church, 1280 Summit St., Elgin.
Sponsored by the African American Christian Ministers Alliance and the Elgin Pastors' Prayer Group, the service will be held in Second Baptist's four-year-old multipurpose center, seating some 750 people. Eight pastors from different churches will speak about Christ's life, death, and resurrection, and a community choir will perform.
The event begins with prayer at 6:30 p.m., followed by the worship service at 7 p.m.
Junior high and high school youth at Church in the Word are hosting an unusual kind of Good Friday remembrance: an art exhibit. The students created 14 pieces representing the Stations of the Cross, which will be on display Friday at the church, 430 Airport Rd., Elgin, from 7 to 9 p.m.
Visitors can walk through the exhibit, taking in art and Scripture and meditating on Christ's journey from the Garden of Gethsemane to the tomb. A short worship service begins at 8 p.m.
Passover and Easter: If you'd like to experience Passover with believers who also celebrate Easter, you might be interested in Ha Mishkan David's annual Feast of Pesach on Friday, April 2, at 6 p.m. Ha Mishkan David is a local Messianic Jewish congregation.
The event will be held at Comfort Inn Suites Hotel in Elgin; call (224) 202-3665 for more information.
Eggs and puppets: For Easter fun on Saturday, families are invited to Elgin Bible Church, 1580 E. Chicago St., for a free "Eggstravaganza."
Registration is at 10:30 a.m. At 11 a.m., the church's puppetry team, Hands 4 Him, presents a show about the true meaning of Easter. I caught a couple of the team's video clips on YouTube, and it's easy to see why these kids continue to win awards for their clever presentations.
"Eggstravaganza" features an Easter egg hunt for preschool through fifth graders, plus door prizes and refreshments.
• Grace Evangelical Church of Elgin also will hide Easter eggs for preschool through sixth graders to find at 10 a.m. Saturday. Sunday morning egg hunts will be held between services at First Congregational Church of Dundee, 900 S. 8th St., West Dundee, and at 8 a.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church, Huntley.
Murder mystery: A murder mystery dinner called "Pasta, Passion and Pistols" sounds like fun and also serves as a fundraiser at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Algonquin, on Saturday, April 24.
Proceeds benefit Dan Reeves, a church member who has battled brain cancer for many years.
The event gets underway at 6:45 p.m. Tickets, which are $15 for adults and $5 for children under 10, can be purchased by calling the church office at (847) 658-9300.