One of the very first things God did when He started His masterwork of Creation was to give form to that which was without form. In the beginning, there was nothing. It was void, formless, chaos. But in one big bang, at His command, this nothingness was given form. The formless void of space gave way to the beautiful form that is our world.
This is the essence of incarnation.
Without the physical world, God could never have interacted with humankind. Besides the fact that there would have been no humanity, God would have, in a way, been limited to working redemption only within the realm of the spiritual. All that would have mattered would have been spirits. But God had a bigger plan.
This is not to say that evil was a part of that plan. I wonder if maybe creation is a response to some spiritual event that occurred long before. Tradition says that there was a battle in heaven between God and His messengers and Satan and those messengers he seduced to follow his cause to overthrow Y-hw-h as Lord of all that was and is and is to come. Satan lost the battle, and as a result, he and those who were a part of his cause were banished from the Heavenly Kingdom.
This being more legend than Scripture, let me add a layer. Y-hw-h knew in advance that Satan and his followers would try again to overthrow his Rule. So He needed to do something to assure His victory. Being merciful, He chose, rather than to utterly destroy His enemy, to banish him to somewhere. But there was no “somewhere.” At this time, “the earth was formless and empty.” So Y-hw-h created earth, made it good, as is His way, and allowed Satan and his followers to reside there. He knew they would try to thwart His plan, but in a physical world, he would be limited in his powers to regroup and would be assured failure were he to try.
But Y-wh-h did not want to give Satan full reign of anything, so he made humankind, and crafted them in His own image. Being physical, they were not deities, but they could act as His angels on the newly created earth and aid Him in maintaining the inherent goodness of that which He had made.
Scripture tells us where the story goes from there. God’s good humans are seduced just as the angels in heaven were, and as a result are banished from the perfect place called Eden.
Which sets the stage for incarnation as we understand it.
Because humankind is physical, and God is spiritual; and because mankind is flawed as a result of his own actions, it became apparent to God that it was going to be hard to communicate with His creation. He had to do something to bring them back to Himself. So He chose certain individuals to be His messengers. It started with Noah and then Abraham and then the priests and then the prophets. God entered these men and women, filled them with Himself, and spoke through them. Fallen humanity refused to listen.
The priests’ hands were covered in the shed blood of the innocent. The plan that God had instituted to aid humanity in paying for their sins had become a license to become involved in the addictive cycle of sin, pray, repent, repeat. God was not pleased in the least, so, through His messenger Isaiah, He told them that they were upsetting Him with their constant shedding of the blood of innocent animals. He seemed to be telling them that if they would obey His way in the first place, then they wouldn’t need to kill any animals at all. Not only is it cleaner this way, but think of how much of a blessing it would be to not have to kill a part of your livelihood to cover up the fact that you liked to sleep around. Just don’t sleep around, and you can make more money. From a pragmatic standpoint, this makes perfect sense.
But it didn’t work, so God decided that it was time to take matters into His own hands. The bloodshed had to stop. A holy life had to be made accessible to all humanity. Spiritual cleansing had to be made possible for all.
So God became one of us.
Since children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death…For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:14-15, 17 TNIV)
This is Jesus Christ.
And this is fundamental to Christian belief. But it is also fundamental to living the God-infused life.
God incarnated Himself as Jesus of Nazareth. And through Jesus He asked that we carry on the tradition. We must be the incarnation of Jesus for the world around us. We must be His hands, His feet, His body until He returns. We must live as He lived, love as He loved, and ultimately show the world what God is like.