The incarnation without the cross and exaltation doesn’t accomplish salvation. But the incarnation ain’t nothing.
As Adam Kotsko says in his treatment of Irenaeus (The Politics of Redemption, 78), “the Incarnation of Christ simply taken in itself brings God into a much more intimate relationship with humanity, accustoming humanity to God and . . . also God to humanity.”
By the incarnation, we have become accustomed to a God who rages against our hypocrisy and self-importance; a God who has compassion on the weak and marginal; a God who takes the hit for humanity; a raucous God who eats and drinks with sinners; a God who feeds the hungry; a God who forgives.
We’d seen this before Jesus showed up. We’d seen prophets and humanitarians and acts of human kindness.We hadn’t been accustomed to this kind of God.