There are some Christmases in which yuletide cheer is harder to come by than in others, and this holiday season certainly ranks among the bittersweet holidays in our national history.

A school shooting in Connecticut in which 20 children and six adults lost their lives is a reminder of how far this world must go to reach the yuletide ideal of peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.

The thought of anyone dying is heartbreaking, but the idea of such little children succumbing to a hail of bullets is a profound tragedy. Our hearts and prayers are with the families of the victims — many of them tiny youngsters looking forward to Christmas. Even the survivors, both children and adults, could be scarred deeply by the ordeal they endured.

The grief felt across this nation is in itself a healthy sign, suggesting how deeply most of us still value human life. When a president is moved to tears on national television after hearing news of the shootings, we know that human life still counts for a great deal in this society. That sense of moral purpose is our greatest resource in dealing with this tragedy. Sadly, there are many other places around the globe in which adults and children die at the hands of despots, and the crime hardly registers in the body politic. Our tears over this tragedy are our strength.

The sadness felt by Americans in all parts of the country and from all walks of life also reminded us that on the big questions, we’re neither red states nor blue states, but simply fellow citizens who share a common sense of decency and know when that decency is violated.

The shootings in Connecticut leave many questions, and the biggest one concerns whether this tragedy could have been avoided. There will be time to sort through the implications of this terrible crime. But for now, let’s stand behind our stricken fellow Americans in Connecticut, and hope for better, more peaceful yuletides in years to come.