Imagine you’re a king, riding your majestic white steed through the forest. You stop in a little village for water and are served by a humble village girl. She enchants you. You speak with her and find that you’re falling in love with her.
But now you’ve got a problem. She can’t really love you in return, there is too much of a gulf between you. She may respect you, revere you, admire you, but she cannot truly love you because she is not really free to reject you. She would be awed, perhaps terrified, certainly obedient. This is a problem because you want her genuine love in return, not her mere compliance.
This problem remains as long as you appear to her as a king. What do you do? One solution: go to the girl in lowly estate, not with the trappings of kingship. The lowliest estate is that of a servant, powerless, in worldly terms. So you humble yourself and go to her in this form, a form in which she does not even recognize you as the powerful king.
Now you run a risk, however. The girl may not regard you at all. Your love may not be requited. But you go, because love compels you.
This is a picture of God’s relationship to us. Soren Kierkegaard, in Philosophical Fragments, uses this analogy to try to explain the love of God. It is the precise way in which God differs from the philosophically necessary God of Aristotle, and the lesser demiurge pagan Gods, and the ethical systems of, say, Socrates, Gandhi, or Confuscious: God is essentially love.
Kierkegaard relies on this story also to teach us something about that essence. God, like the king in the story, does not want us, like the girl in the story, merely to learn theological doctrines which are truths about Him. Like the king in the story does with the girl, He wants us to have a genuine love relationship with Him.
So He came to us as a servant, and His advent among us was in that most powerless of human states: an infant.