As Christmas Eve neared, word came Monday morning that four volunteer firefighters had been shot, two of them fatally, as they responded to a call near Rochester, N.Y.
Perhaps in the new year, the NRA will call for an armed guard at every fire, as well as at every school.
At the close of the vigil after the Newtown massacre, where 20 school children were murdered at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, the stunned townspeople sang "Silent Night," hard as it must have been for them to imagine that a savior of any kind had been born.
The murderers, in Sandy Hook and in New York today, both shot themselves. The guiding principle seems to have been to take the lives of others before taking your own life, a sick inversion of the courage shown by the noble souls who made the ultimate sacrifice.
In Newtown, teacher Victoria Soto died shielding her students from the gunfire. Teacher Anne Marie Murphy’s last act was to wrap her arms around a student in a vain effort to save him. That same selflessness was what sent the firefighters this morning to the early morning blaze where they were suddenly, senselessly ambushed.
In the company of these heroes are other selfless souls, such as 23-year-old Dylan Smith of the Rockaways, who rescued six people with his surfboard amidst a raging storm surge and wind-driven flames during Hurricane Sandy.
The news that he drowned while surfing in Puerto Rico on Sunday was enough to make you believe that any higher power is at best indifferent.
Hark, the herald angels weep.
But the Christmas spirit is the sprit of giving, and is expressed only in the smallest way with wrapped presents on Christmas morn.
In the unhesitant willingness to sacrifice one’s life so that others might live radiates that greatest love, the ultimate lesson of the savior whose birth the holiday celebrates.
And that greatest love remains the star that leads to whatever we can manage to believe in on Christmas and all the other days.