I struggle with “Merry Christmas” as a greeting. Though I throw words away all the time, I like to greet people in the way that they wish to be greeted. It’s a way of acknowledging that I see them and care about them.

I often say “Good morning” in the afternoon. People think I’m confused. And then I say, “I know how the morning turned out. It was pretty good. I don’t know how the afternoon will go. It may not be so good. So let me state facts.”

I know. I would dislike having to converse with me.

On this day, it is hard to say “Merry Christmas” as my friend Mark grieves his mom who died on Tuesday, as Nancy and our family are grieving Marion, who died in September, as I know friends and family with incredible mixes of laughter and tears, stresses and delights, uncertainty about the good and certainty about the pains.

As I started writing this post, I couldn’t figure out what to put in front of “Christmas.” Then I realized that I can stick with that one word.

In the middle of the grieving, I can say “Christmas” as a statement the begins the process of incarnation, Christ with us, that almost ends with Good Friday, but at the last minute extends to Easter and beyond. It’s a statement of presence.

In the middle of delight, I can say “Christmas” as an agreement with the celebration of angels and shepherds.

In the middle of confusion, I can say “Christmas” as an affirmation of a mystery that Mary and many others pondered.

The “Merry” part? Many of us are sensitive about inflicting on others. The “Christmas” part? That’s a participation in a story that is still unfolding.

And so, dear friends, my family and I wish you “Christmas.”