Morrisa and I are back from a fun vacation of cooking and sightseeing on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. The Amalfi Coast is where the Lattari Mountains meet the Tyrrhenian Sea. It’s steep, rugged, and volcanic. Where the water and the sea meet, there are many caves and grottos. The most famous of the grottos is the Blue Grotto on the Island of Capri. A lesser known grotto is the Green Grotto. It’s a much larger grotto than the Blue Grotto. The Green Grotto is a big room in a cave about the size of our gymnasium. The ceiling of the cave is about 50’ high, and the water depth is about 30’. The cave is lit by a tunnel below the sea level which channels green light into the cave. Hence, the name Green Grotto. Inside, there are little boats that guides use to paddle visitors around to see the various sights of the grotto.
One of the sights is on the seafloor of the grotto. It is a ceramic nativity scene. The scene has a cow, donkey, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. It’s visible from the surface of the water, but it’s much easier to see with a diving mask. Every Christmas Eve, about 50 SCUBA divers with underwater flashlights meet up to swim through the tunnel in a kind of flashlight processional and gather at the nativity scene. It’s their version of a candlelight Christmas Eve service.
I like to SCUBA dive, so the idea of an underwater Christmas Eve service got me thinking about the logistics of pastoring a Christmas Eve SCUBA service. Divers can’t talk underwater. Instead, they use hand signals. The signal for “Hold Hands” or “Pair Up” could be used to have divers greet each other in the name of Jesus. Musical instruments don’t work underwater, but divers make noise by banging shells on their tank to get other diver’s attention. Instead of instruments and singing, they could bang out a joyful rhythm together on their tanks. For the offering, there is a hand signal for “Share Air”. Underwater, air is all a diver has. Sharing air seems like a fitting offering. For the prayer, there is a hand signal for “Trouble”. The trouble signal could be paired with the “Go Up” signal to signify lifting up our trouble in prayer to God.
The toughest part of the service would be the scripture and sermon, but there are hand signals that could even be used for that. There is a signal for “Turn Around, Go Back”. That would be for the sermon on repentance. There’s a hand signal for “Stop”. That would be handy for a sermon about sin. There’s a hand signal used to ask the question, “Which Way?” That one could be used for a sermon about seeking God’s guidance.
As good as those hand signals are, none of them are going to work for a Christmas Eve sermon about the birth of Jesus. Divers also communicate with magnetic writing boards. They are the kind of boards that children use to draw with. After they draw on them, they slide the magnetic lever which erases the board so that it’s ready to use again. An underwater sermon could be written on one of those boards. The problem with writing out a sermon is that a typical sermon is about 2,000 words long. There isn’t enough air in the tanks to sit through that. It’ll have to be a short sermon. Given the underwater constraints, I think the most concise scripture and sermon I could give is this: “…Let us go now and see this thing that has taken place.” (Luke 2:15) The sermon would be equally as concise and would probably fit on one board, “O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.” That’s the essence of what we do on Christmas Eve and every Sunday throughout the year.
There are no SCUBA hand signals for a benediction, but Jesus is often depicted in icons giving the symbol of blessing, which looks like a peace sign. Jesus’ blessing sign followed by an “End the Dive” signal would begin the SCUBA flashlight recessional through the cave and back to the boats.
I know we’ve got some SCUBA divers in the congregation. If any of you want to go drop a nativity in Beaver Lake and go down and have a Christmas Eve service, let me know. We’ve got an order of service already prepared. Maybe, we’ll start a new tradition.