By Michael Giles

WHAT is the real meaning of Christmas?
Is it the gifts under the Christmas tree, the lights illuminating our homes at night, the cards or well-wishes by email, the turkey dinner with family and friends, the carol singing, the Christmas stockings, gift giving… what?
Of course, central to the celebration of Christmas is the birth of the baby Jesus and the idea that God sent his only son down to earth to show us the way to behave and the way to salvation.
But even if you’re not a Christian and many in our secular society today are not, there’s a lesson in that selfless act, that ultimate offer of help and support for people in need that should resonate with all of us at Christmas time.
It could and probably should become a tradition of Christmas today that we all go out of our way to support our preferred charity or cause with a donation of money, goods or time; or all three of those things.
The other lesson to be learned, and one that we should endeavour to make extend beyond the festive season, is showing goodwill, courtesy and respect to our fellow travellers (both in life and on the road).
And that certainly goes for our South Gippsland Shire Councillors, who it must be said, have not exactly covered themselves in glory where behaviour and respect are concerned over the past 12 months.
This Wednesday, December 20, they are facing a particularly difficult and potentially divisive agenda at their council meeting, full of opportunities to disparage, denigrate and demean if they choose to go that way.
Or they could adopt the ‘goodwill to all’ theme of Christmas and have a bit of respect, even when colleagues are advancing different points of view, taking care to check the sort of behaviour that has held them back as a council and us as a community.
And that goes for the meetings behind closed doors as well.
And having adjusted our behaviour at Christmas, we should see the festive season as a circuit-breaker, providing the opportunity to carry a better attitude to family members, workmates and others forward into the New Year.
From the ‘Sentinel-Times’ we hope you have a Happy and Safe Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.