The word “reindeer” often brings to mind images of sleighs, jingling bells and a kind-hearted, jolly old man who delivers Christmas gifts to children all over the world. But to the Nenets of Siberia, reindeer are much more than folklore—reindeer are life.
Nenets and their reindeer migrate more than 600 miles every year across northern Russia’s arctic tundra. Along this isolated journey, reindeer provide companionship, transportation and sustenance. Their meat is a source of nutrition. Hides are fashioned into clothing and shelter suitable for survival in one of the harshest climates on earth.
Reindeer also feature significantly in Nenet religious life. They’re sacrificed to keep peace with the spirits who rule creation, invoking good fortune. Twice a year, a white reindeer is offered in worship to Num, the spirit of the sky and creator of all things.
The Israelites understood the role of animal sacrifice in keeping peace with God. So when John the Baptist announced Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” listeners likely thought of Passover. During this annual commemoration of Israel’s rescue from slavery in Egypt, an unblemished lamb was sacrificed as a reminder that God would save His people from judgment (Exodus 12).
From the beginning of human history, sin devastated creation and forged a relational chasm between God and people. Could Jesus really remove sin? And without it, could all of creation and humanity be healed and restored to full relationship with God?
Yes! Jesus, the Lamb of God, was born to rescue us from every effect of sin and death. His willing sacrifice leads us to life and makes all things new. The book of Isaiah paints a picture of the renewal Jesus makes possible. The desert rejoices and blossoms (35:1). Mountains and hills sing, and trees clap their hands (55:12). Predator and prey dwell together in peace, and a little child—the one we know as Christ, the perfect Lamb of God—leads our way home to God (11:6).
Thank God today for the gift of life made possible through Christ’s death and resurrection. Pray for the more than two billion people on earth still waiting to hear that Jesus is making all things new.
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