The Advent Season – “Adventus Adventures”
Advent comes from the Latin word, Adventus, meaning “arrival” or “coming.” Traditionally, Advent is the season devoted to anticipating the coming of Jesus Christ. Advent is not only a time to look back at the birth of Jesus about 2,000 years ago, but it’s also a time to look forward to His promised return.
Advent is a season observed by many different traditions in many different ways. Some orthodox churches celebrate a 40-day period, while others focus on a 25-day period. Many western churches count the days from the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas.
Drive Thru History Adventures is going to share its own Advent calendar with its members this year. Starting on Sunday, December 3rd, we will post a daily nugget for Advent. We will focus on scripture and apologetics related to the arrival of Jesus, and build a 23-day calendar towards Christmas Day on December 25th.
We are calling our daily post, “Adventus Adventures,” because it’s cool alliteration. Also, we figure Adventus must be some kind of ancient root word for “Adventures.” Yes, the Christmas season is filled with materialism and a number of pagan traditions, but Advent is a wonderful way to focus on Christ in your home.
We pray your family enjoys the Advent Season!
DAY 1 – The Roman Empire
The Roman Empire officially started when Caesar Augustus received the title of “Emperor” from the Roman Senate on June 16, 27 BC. This event launched a period known as the Pax Romana, Latin for “Roman Peace.” The Roman Empire became so large and powerful in the Mediterranean region, that things were relatively peaceful – well, for Rome, that is.
During the period covered in the Gospel accounts, the Roman Empire stretched from Spain in the west, to Belgium in the north, to Egypt in the south, and to Syria in the east. With an estimated population of over 70 million people, the Roman Empire accounted for one-fourth of the total world population at the time.
The Roman Empire had military control of ancient Israel, including the regions of Judea and Galilee. Rome also introduced its pagan religious practices into places such as Jerusalem. The Roman occupation was yet another in a long line of “unholy” insults to the identity of a people who believed that they were called by God to be separate and apart. The Jews quietly hoped that someday, a savior, a Messiah, would rise up and lead an overthrow of Rome.
This white marble statue of Caesar Augustus is known as “Augustus of Prima Porta.” It was discovered in 1863 in Prima Porta, Italy, near Rome. The statue was found in the ruins of the “Villa of Livia,” the home of Livia Drusilla, Caesar’s wife. She moved there after Caesar Augustus died in 14 AD. The sculptor is unknown, but the statue dates to the 1st century AD, serving as historical testimony to the look of Caesar Augustus and the style of the period. This ancient work of art currently resides in the Vatican Museum in Rome.
DAY 2 – King Herod the Great
Under the established system of Roman governance, Herod the Great was king of the Judean region, but he was a local power broker – a “client king.” This meant that he had regional power, but he was still under the authority of Rome. Herod’s family acquired power in the region beginning with the takeover of Jerusalem by the Roman General Pompey in 63 BC. Herod was ambitious and power-hungry, and he eventually gained the support of Rome. By 40 BC, he was the reigning “king of the Jews.”
Although Herod enjoyed the support of the Romans, including Caesar Augustus, the Jewish people never really accepted him, since he was raised by an Idumean father and a Nabatean mother. The Roman historian Josephus described Herod as a “half-Jew,” and since ancestry determined destiny under Jewish law, Herod did not have the ancestral right to be a Jewish king, and pretty much everyone knew it.
Herod understood what the Jews thought about him, and he never really felt secure in his position, so he built multiple protective fortresses around the region, in case of a rebellion. He continually suspected that treason and insurrection were afoot.
Masada is a famous mountain fortress above the western shore of the Dead Sea in Israel. The history of Masada goes back to 31 BC, when Herod the Great completed construction of his “palace of refuge,” just in case there was a revolt against him. Masada was built on top of a 1,300-foot mountain. Its primary defense was a single-file “snake path” up to the top, which was easy to defend from above. The Masada fortress had a number of defensive walls, barracks, and armories. It also had huge storehouses and cisterns, which could hold months of food and water.
DAY 3 – The Genealogy of Messiah
The first verse of the Gospels reads: “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).
What does this really mean?
Abraham was the first Hebrew. Isaac was his son and Jacob was his grandson (Matthew 1:2). Together, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were known as “The Patriarchs” — the fathers of the Hebrews. Abraham and his descendants were given the unconditional covenant to a piece of territory known as “The Promised Land” (Genesis 17:8).
In Genesis 35:10-12, Jacob’s name was changed to “Israel.” Later, Jacob had twelve sons who became the “Twelve Tribes of Israel” (Genesis 35:23-26). All of their descendants are known as “Israelites” or the “Children of Israel” (Exodus 1:6-7).
One of Jacob’s twelve sons was Judah (Genesis 35:23; Matthew 1:2). It is from Judah’s name that we get the word “Jew.” Although Judah (Yehudah) was only one of the twelve sons, the word Jew (Yehudee) came to mean any person descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Jeremiah 34:9).
According to the Old Testament, the Messiah must descend from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10) and King David, who was himself a descendant of Judah (Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5-6). That is why the Messiah is called the “Son of David” in the New Testament (Matthew 21:9).
This mosaic depicts the genealogy of Jesus, starting with Adam. The icon style of “Christ Pantocrator” at the center is one of the most widely used religious images in Orthodox Christianity. Generally, a mosaic or fresco of “Christ Pantocrator” occupies a center position in art and architecture of most Byzantine churches.
DAY 4 – The Annunciation
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:26-33)
This event recorded by Luke is known as the “Annunciation,” or the Announcement. The Annunciation marks the moment of the Incarnation of Jesus in the womb of Mary, the moment in which He took on human flesh and became man. The gravity and importance of the Incarnation cannot be overestimated for Christian theology. The day that Jesus became man was a day after which nothing would ever be the same.
DAY 5 – Basilica of the Annunciation
While the current Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth was built in 1969, its roots go way back to the 4th century when Roman Emperor Constantine commissioned the construction of a church at this location. Constantine’s mother, Helena, was traveling Israel marking important locations in the life of Jesus. Here, she discovered a shrine in a cave that pilgrims treated as Mary’s childhood home. This is known as the “Grotto of the Annunciation” to this day. Constantine’s original church existed until it was destroyed during the 7th century. Since that time, other churches have been built and destroyed over the same location.
You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. (Luke 1:31-32)
Roman Catholic tradition holds that the Annunciation occurred in Mary’s home, which is marked by Basilica of the Annunciation. Greek Orthodox tradition maintains that the encounter happened while Mary was drawing water from a local spring. This is the location marked by the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth today.
DAY 6 – A Pregnant Virgin
Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which is translated, “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23, pointing back to Isaiah 7:14)
A pregnant virgin is impossible from a natural perspective, so this passage refers to a miraculous happening. The word miracle comes from the Latin word, miraculum, which means, “to wonder.” In the Gospels, the Greek word used is dunamis, meaning “work of power.” The dictionary definition of miracle is “an effect or an extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.”
The Virgin Birth was the only way for the Messiah to be fully human and fully God, capable of fulfilling his role as the long-awaited Redeemer of all mankind.
DAY 7 – The Roman Census
The Jews were now living as a conquered people in their own land. They were forced to pay taxes to Rome to help fund Roman roads, aqueducts, theaters, government buildings, and military garrisons. The Gospel of Luke tells us:
“In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree, that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.” (Luke 2:1)
Occasionally, the Emperor of Rome called for a census – a periodic registration of all the subjects in the Roman Empire. The census wasn’t very popular, because it was Rome’s way to make sure all its subjects were paying all their taxes. For the Jewish people who had endured centuries of outside control, the Roman census was yet another mockery of their religious principles. However, the Roman census wasn’t voluntary, and there was no way some average Joe (or Joseph) could avoid it.
DAY 8 – Coins of the Gospels
Coins discovered at archaeological sites throughout Israel offer remarkable visual evidence for some of the historical figures mentioned in the Gospels. Caesar Augustus, mentioned in Luke 2:1, is one of those key people.
Emperor Augustus minted many coins in many different designs. This coin, a silver denarius minted between 2 BC and 4 AD, shows the bust of Caesar Augustus on the front. Although he looks young in the portrait, he was actually in his early 60’s when this coin was made. History tells us that the public image of the Emperor was not allowed to grow old with him.
Caesar Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome, had no son to pass along his title and power. Therefore, Augustus adopted his two grandsons, Gaius and Lucius, as his heirs. They are the two men depicted on the back of this coin. Unfortunately, they both met untimely deaths and Augustus was forced to adopt Tiberius, his wife Livia’s son by a previous marriage. Tiberius and Augustus did not like each other. But unlike Gaius and Lucius, Tiberius survived to succeed Augustus as the second Emperor of Rome in 14 AD.
Coins such as these provide awesome evidence for some of the historical leaders mentioned in the Gospels.
DAY 9 – The Road to Bethlehem
And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (Luke 2:3-5)
During the first century, the most direct route from Nazareth to Bethlehem was just over 90 miles. No cars, no trains — just a long, dusty hike.
Mary and Joseph likely traveled with a caravan. Nobody knows the exact route that Joseph and Mary took. Perhaps it was the shorter, more demanding walk along the trade route going through the center of Samaria. Or maybe it was the longer, easier walk through the Jordan River Valley. Either way, the trip would have taken a week or more.
Although the historical accounts don’t mention a specific “ride” for Mary, tradition places the very pregnant mom-to-be on a donkey, with Joseph walking alongside.
DAY 10 – Bethlehem, the Town of David
History tells us that the birthplace of Jesus was Bethlehem. Matthew specifies “Bethlehem in Judea.” Luke tells us “Bethlehem, the town of David.” Why does this matter? Because it appears that this Bethlehem, about five and a half miles southwest of Jerusalem, is exactly where the Hebrew Scriptures predicted the Messiah would be born.
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting. (Micah 5:2)
Bethlehem – the birthplace of Jesus — was a very important location for the Jewish people. This is the town where King David was born about 1,000 years earlier, and it was the town where their foretold king – the One to be Ruler in Israel – needed to be born at some point in the future.
DAY 11 – Church of the Nativity
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is the oldest standing church in continual use in the Holy Land. It was first commissioned by Roman emperor Constantine and his mother, Helena, in 327 AD. The original structure was completed in 339 AD, but was burned and destroyed in the mid-500s when the Samaritans rose up against the Byzantine Empire. Shortly thereafter, Roman emperor Justinian started building the current structure in 556 AD. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem today has been modified over the years, but it retains the architectural theme of the original structure.
DAY 12 – First Century Homes in Bethlehem
The Church of the Nativity was built over a pilgrimage site many years ago as a memorial for the birthplace of Jesus. Of course, this huge church in the modern city of Bethlehem doesn’t look anything like the home that Mary and Joseph visited over 2,000 years ago. It’s been covered up for centuries.
Homes in first-century Bethlehem were pretty simple — usually two-room affairs built on top of cave-like basements. The larger room was where the family lived, cooked, and slept. The smaller room, known as the “kataluma,” was for storage and occasional guests.
Underneath the house was a cave-like dwelling area where the owners kept their livestock. Families relied heavily on their animals for meat, milk, and farming, so at night, they brought their valuable creatures inside to avoid robbers and predators.
The Gospel of Luke records that when Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, there was no room for them in the “kataluma” – probably meaning the guest room of a friend or family member. So, they ended up in the basement with the animals.
DAY 13 – The Manger
And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger… (Luke 2:7)
The Gospels tell us that Mary placed the baby Jesus in a manger. So, what’s a manger? In the simplest sense, a manger is an animal feeding trough – a feed box. In Nativity scenes, mangers are often depicted as little wooden “feeders” with a handful of hay.
Actually, the mangers in ancient Israel were pretty substantial feeding and watering troughs, typically carved from limestone. When you travel to Israel, you’ll come across stone mangers at various archaeology sites.
It makes sense that a typical Jewish family would have at least one stone manger in its cave basement to hold food and water for the animals.
…Not what we picture as a crib fit for a King!
DAY 14 – Shepherds in the Fields
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. (Luke 2:8-16)
Bethlehem means “house of bread” in Hebrew. Bethlehem got its name from all the grain fields on the surrounding hills. After the grain harvest, shepherds were invited to bring their sheep and goats into the fields to eat the leftovers. In return, the animals fertilized the fields. This made the soil nice and ready for the next planting season.
DAY 15 – A Birth Foretold
The Hebrew Prophet Micah wrote the following about 700 years before the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem:
But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to me the one to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2)
About the same time, the Hebrew Prophet Isaiah wrote the following:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
Reflect on these Old Testament scriptures in light of what we just learned about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Remember, these were written about 700 years before his birth.
DAY 16 – The Word Became Flesh
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
DAY 17 – Gifts Fit for a King
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
Some time after the birth of Jesus, Magi from the east came for a visit. Known popularly as the “Wise Men,” these Magi were probably the latest in the line of a pagan priests, mystics and astrologers from Medo-Persian lineage. Historians such as Herodotus tell us that the Magi were considered “king-makers” in the ancient world.
Nothing in the Gospel accounts says there were only three “Wise Men,” but that tradition might have come from the list of their three specific gifts – Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh – tribute fit for a very special King.
Gold was a valuable commodity – a symbol of kingship.
Frankincense was perfumed incense – a symbol of deity.
Myrrh was anointing and embalming oil – a symbol of honored death.
DAY 18 – Who is this Baby?
In AD 248, the Christian apologist Origen wrote:
“Gold, as to a king;
Myrrh, as to one who was mortal; and
Incense, as to a God.”
DAY 19 – Frankincense and Myrrh
Frankincense comes from the sappy resin of the Boswellia tree, a gnarly plant that grows in the harsh desert environments of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Yemen. Harvesters slash the bark and let the resin bleed out and harden. These hardened drips are called “tears.” The tears are graded by color and aroma, and could be as valuable as gold during ancient times.
Frankincense has been traded throughout the Mediterranean region for more than 4,500 years. Murals depicting the frankincense trade show up on walls of Egyptian temples dating to about 1500 BC. Frankincense was also an important part of ancient Jewish rituals in the Temple in Jerusalem. In various forms, it acted as incense, perfume, and an ingredient in meal offerings.
Similar to frankincense, myrrh is a resin that comes from another unique plant growing in the same harsh area of the world. In this case, it’s the thorny, scraggly Commiphora tree. Much of the ancient myrrh made its way to Egypt, where it was used as an ingredient for embalming mummies. The rest made its way throughout the Mediterranean region on Nabatean camel caravans. The Nabateans are famous for their capital city of Petra, located in present-day Jordan.
Myrrh is also mentioned in a number of Hebrew Scriptures relating to religious rituals. In addition to incense aromas and food offerings in the Temple, myrrh was an important ingredient in the holy oil used to anoint the high priests and kings of Israel.
DAY 20 – The Prophets (Part 1)
As Christmas approaches, we suggest a quick study of the ancient Jewish scriptures. As you reflect on the wonder of Christ’s birth, take a moment to read some of the Jewish prophets that preceded the Nativity by hundreds (and even thousands) of years.
Who was this predicted “Shiloh” mentioned as far back as the Book of Genesis?
“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples”(Genesis 49:10 NASB).
Who was this coming “Ruler” that the prophet Micah said would be born in Bethlehem, yet preexisted time itself?
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2 (NKJV).
Who was this “Redeemer” that Job said would come to save him and the world from death?
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25).
Who was this prophesied “Son” that the prophet Isaiah declared would come to earth and be referred to as “Wonderful,” “Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Everlasting Father,” and “Prince of Peace?”
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV).
DAY 21 – The Prophets (Part 2)
Who was this “Messiah” (Hebrew: Mashiyach) that the prophet Daniel said would come sixty-nine “weeks” (weeks of years in Hebrew, meaning 483 years) after a decree to rebuild Jerusalem?
“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times” (Daniel 9:25 NKJV).
Who was this “Root of Jesse” that the prophet Isaiah said would offer hope and rest at some future date in time?
“In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10 NIV).
Who was this righteous “Branch” that the prophet Jeremiah said would reign as “King” and execute judgment throughout the earth?
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth” (Jeremiah 23:5 NKJV).
Who was this “Son of Man” that the prophet Daniel said would have everlasting dominion over all peoples and nations?
“I was watching in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14 NKJV).
Once you investigate these scriptures, contemplate their meanings in light of the historic Jewish record. What’s the common theme? In light of Christmas, what’s the powerful conclusion?
DAY 22 – Jesus Presented in the Temple
Shortly after the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary took him to the Temple in Jerusalem to present him before God. There was a devout elderly man in the Temple courts who was waiting for such a moment. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he saw the Messiah.
When the man saw Jesus, he took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.
(Simeon, Temple Courts, Jerusalem – Luke 2:22-32)
DAY 23 – A Christmas Prayer
Now may the God of peace Himself grant you His peace (the peace of His kingdom) at all times and in all ways – under all circumstances and conditions, whatever comes. (2 Thessalonians 3:16 AMP)
Merry Christmas indeed!