A Christmas Eve Celebration in Kotzebue, AlaskaBy Pamela Rae Schuffert presenting investigative journalism from a Biblical Christian perspective-
Last night, Christmas Eve, I and my young friend Solomon enjoyed the most creative and amazing Christmas Eve service I have ever attended. It was held in the Friends Church of Kotzebue, Alaska. The wonderful performances of both drama and music were presented by the amazing Inupiaq natives of this Arctic village.
Orignial Friends Church of Kotzebue, Alaska
Actually, I was not fully prepared for what I encountered there last night. Lisa, the nurse I had come up to help here, had explained to me previously, "Now, Pam, I know you can be boisterous and outspoken, but these people are very quiet and reserved. You will have to be very quiet around them...." And so I came to the service on my best behavior mode, lips tightly zipped with only a warm smile protruding from them.
But oh, how WRONG my friend Lisa was! These people let 'er RIP last night! From the village elders to the youngest children, it was truly a glorious celebration filled with native humor and talent galore as even precious little children hardly able to hold the microphone sang "Away in a Manger" as good as any singer in Nashville could ever hope to sing. Various groups also sang away into the night.
Their main presentation play for the evening was themed "Celebrating Christmas Around the World." And they did just that. Have you ever seen an Eskimo dressed up in Hawaiian grass skirt decked with garlands of flowers around their necks? Or dressed up as African American Gospel singers? Or dressed as Native Indians in the lower 48 (Mohawk-cut hairstyle and all)? Only THIS particular Mohawk hair style was colored red, white and blue! And more....
These people must believe in "holy laughter" and the joy of the Lord being their strength, because that is what THIS church was filled with all night long! As the "Hawaiian" Inupiaqs hula'ed down the aisle to the stage, the people chuckled, remembering that it was about 20 degrees below zero outside.
Yet in the midst of much mirth and celebration, there was devout worship and praise with many Christmas carols honoring Jesus Christ, and the Gospel message presented fully to all who came.
For "Baby's First Christmas," they brought up all the newborn babies and those under one year of age to proudly present them to the congregation. These babies looked adorable dressed in their soft furs and in their genuine sealskin booties so soft and warm. So many babies were there that night! In the Inupiaq churches, children and infants are welcome in their services. Church is a family affair. And so it was Christmas Eve.
For those of my readers who have volunteered on Native reservations or villages, it comes as no real surprise that these Native Inupiaq people also have a wonderful sense of humor. Because of the many challenges they have faced, and difficult or painful circumstances they have had to deal with, they have discovered that a good sense of humor helps to keep everything in balance and lifts them up from sadness they face at times.
And by the way, LOVE was everywhere last night in that church! I and a few others were the only
non-Inupiak people in that church, but their love and joy flowed out to all of us without hesitation or discrimination.
You know, it's becoming very interesting here....
Many University-educated white folks from the "lower 48" came up here to "help the Inupiaq" and to teach them regarding medical and health assistance and education. But more and more, as I listen and observe these unique people here in Kotzebue, I am getting the sneaking suspicion that maybe, just maybe, we are here for them to TEACH US some things.
I am learning so much already just by quiet observation and listening. Perhaps we all have much to mutually learn from one another.
I have been to many Christmas Eve celebrations in churches across America throughout the years, but nothing was quite as unique and warm as this one in Kotzebue, Alaska.
May your celebration of the Christ Child come to earth be rich and blessed and filled with sacred songs and prayers and much love this wonderul season, now and always!
-Pamela Rae reporting from Kotzebue, Alaska