The Incarnation is at the heart of Christianity and is a topic we're currently discussing at our discussion forums on Sunday mornings. Incarnation is a word that originates in Latin. The Latin root of incarnation is "in" + "carnes" (flesh - as in "carnivore). It literally means "in [someone's] flesh." The most significant incarnation is that of Jesus (God the Son) becoming flesh and dwelling among men (John 1:14). After studying theology for years, it's still difficult to fully wrap my head around what this means and how it works.
I like how the legendary Paul Harvey described the incarnation many years ago. He shared the following story: "One raw winter night a man heard an irregular thumping sound against the kitchen storm door. He went to a window and watched as tiny, shivering sparrows, attracted to the evident warmth inside, beat in vain against the glass.
Touched, the farmer bundled up and trudged through fresh snow to open the barn for the struggling birds. He turned on the lights, tossed some hay in a corner, and sprinkled a trail of saltine crackers to direct them to the barn. But the sparrows, which had scattered in all directions when he emerged from the house, still hid in the darkness, afraid of him.
He tried various tactics: circling behind the birds to drive them toward the barn, tossing cracker crumbs in the air toward them, retreating to his house to see if they'd flutter into the barn on their own. Nothing worked. He, a huge alien creature, had terrified them; the birds could not understand that he actually desired to help.
He withdrew to his house and watched the doomed sparrows through a window. As he stared, a thought hit him like lightning from a clear blue sky: If only I could become a bird - one of them - just for a moment. Then I wouldn't frighten them so. I could show them the way to warmth and safety. At the same moment, another thought dawned on him. He had grasped the whole principle of the Incarnation.
A man's becoming a bird is nothing compared to God's becoming a man. The concept of a sovereign being as big as the universe He created, confining Himself to a human body was - and is - too much for some people to believe."
In order to save us, God became one of us. He became flesh and dwelt among us. He taught us how to love God and love each other, thus recovering a piece of God's original design. Ultimately, Jesus died on a cross to pay the penalty for the sins committed by those who have faith in Him. Without the Incarnation, this would not be possible.