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Center for Action and Contemplation

Mary’s Wholehearted Call

Friday, December 23, 2022

Public theologian Rachel Held Evans (1981–2019) found inspiration in Mary’s courageous “yes” to God:

Perhaps it is because I am neck-deep in a season of motherhood and caretaking that I am more aware than ever of the startling and profound reality that I am a Christian not because of anything I’ve done but because a teenage girl living in occupied Palestine at one of the most dangerous moments in history said yes—yes to God, yes to a wholehearted call she could not possibly understand, yes to vulnerability in the face of societal judgment . . . yes to a vision for herself and her little boy of a mission that would bring down rulers and lift up the humble, that would turn away the rich and fill the hungry with good things, that would scatter the proud and gather the lowly [see Luke 1:51–53], yes to a life that came with no guarantee of her safety or her son’s.

I know that Christians are Easter people. We are supposed to favor the story of the resurrection, which reminds us that death is never the end of God’s story. Yet I have never found that story even half as compelling as the story of the Incarnation.

Evans honors the unique role that Mary, and women everywhere, play in humanity’s physical incarnation:

It is nearly impossible to believe: God shrinking down to the size of a zygote, implanted in the soft lining of a woman’s womb. God growing fingers and toes. God kicking and hiccupping in utero. God inching down the birth canal and entering this world covered in blood, perhaps into the steady, waiting arms of a midwife. God crying out in hunger. God reaching for his mother’s breasts. God totally relaxed, eyes closed, his chubby little arms raised over his head in a posture of complete trust. God resting in his mother’s
lap. . . .

God trusted God’s very self, totally and completely and in full bodily form, to the care of a woman. God needed women for survival. Before Jesus fed us with the bread and the wine, the body and the blood, Jesus himself needed to be fed, by a woman. He needed a woman to say: “This is my body, given for you.”. . . 

To understand Mary’s humanity and her central role in Jesus’s story is to remind ourselves of the true miracle of the Incarnation—and that is the core Christian conviction that God is with us, plain old ordinary us. God is with us in our fears and in our pain, in our morning sickness and in our ear infections, in our refugee crises and in our endurance of Empire, in smelly barns and unimpressive backwater towns, in the labor pains of a new mother and in the cries of a tiny infant. In all these things, God is with us—and God is for us.


Rachel Held Evans with Jeff Chu, Wholehearted Faith (New York: HarperOne, 2021), 3–5, 6.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Zoe Schaffer, Seedling (detail), 2022, Pennsylvania, photograph, Unsplash. Markus Ilg, Austria (detail), 2020, Austria, photograph, Unsplash. Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 11 (detail), 2022, New Mexico, photograph, used with permission. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: The Christ in everything: nature, Advent candles and Scriptures, God in the cells of our hands.

Story from Our Community:

A year ago, I felt caught between two loves. I lost my faith community after I married my husband who is of the Baha’i faith. My community couldn’t wrap their heads around my husband being part of our faith rhythms and services. I have spent a year grieving and making sense of this. I’m so grateful to CAC for encouraging me to trust my sense of Christ as universal. . . In this new concept of Christ, I am slowing beginning to see the life-giving Christ everywhere: in small details in the midst of grief; the frosty leaves on the way to work; deep personal commonalities and Christ-likeness in those I have previously considered as ‘other’ (including my now-husband!); and even the goodness of the community I felt hurt by. —Emily C.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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