Can you imagine Christmas without the cross? Think about how we might view our faith differently if all we had was Jesus incarnate – God with flesh on. One big problem we would be faced with is that without the cross we would essentially lose our concept of salvation. There would not be a get-out-of-Jail-free card at the end of the game of life that could make up for all our blunders here in this life. And we might wonder if God was really as powerful as he says he is unless he was able to defeat sin and death. But check it out – what actual proof of forgiveness do we actually have in this life. I mean the Bible tells us we are forgiven and assured a place in heaven but has anyone ever actually come back from where ever heaven is to confirm our suspicions? So we place hope in something that we're not completely sure of – we call that hope. What proof do we have that Jesus accomplished anything at the cross without faith? None really.
So without the cross and its significance our faith changes drastically. So some argue the cross is the pivotal center piece of Christian thought and practice.
But what if the cross wasn't.
The incarnation is equally impossible without faith. But its consequences are equally important if not more so. Incarnation forces us to deal with this life as if it is important all on its own without the threat of some super existence we could escape to someday. It forces us to recognize that into the very same world of pain and struggle God descends to be a very local and personal agent of redemption. God comes to show us an example of how to live but also to confirm to us that this life is not some meaningless toil that we should long to escape but a real important existence that is worth the effort. Worth the effort of acting redemptively, worth the effort of acting for justice, worth the effort of reconciliation, worth the effort of enjoying this life's intrinsic goodness. The incarnation elevates our own existence because God was willing to identify. So our life has value. And more value than just making the right decision about which ticket we're going to purchase for our after-life trip. Our life is actually about bring 'heaven' to earth.