It’s the most wonderful time of the year—the time many people are busy decorating their homes, downloading their holiday playlists, and, of course, shopping for Christmas gifts.

And it’s the time of year many churches, businesses, and organizations are putting together programs to help children and families experience a little Christmas joy. Very soon, Christmas trees will begin to pop up in stores and church lobbies decorated with tags that might say some of the following:

Boy, age 2. Wears 2T clothing. Needs a coat. Likes Paw Patrol.
Girl, age 8. Size 10 pants. Loves crafts and music.

Facebook posts will begin to circulate seeking donations for Christmas collections to help families who need a little extra help this holiday season.

And as someone who has helped coordinate these programs, regularly participates in these programs, and at times been on the receiving end of these programs, I have a very important request for anyone thinking of adopting a child or family for Christmas this year:

Please, resist the urge to be cheap.

Please, treat the children you are shopping for like they are one of your own.

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Please, use this as an opportunity to tangibly show a child that God sees them, values them, and cares deeply about them.

Many times, I’ve seen people take a tag and seek out the least expensive way to fulfill the child’s wish list. Many times, I’ve heard some variation of the following to justify this: Beggars can’t be choosers. People should just be grateful for what they get.

And I get it–I really do. I’ve been guilty of this myself. I’ve grabbed the tags from the tree and felt that urge to head to the dollar store and the clearance aisles and find the least expensive options to check items off the list.

Since we became parents, we’ve always tried to find children around the same age as our own to shop for. Last year, I remember choosing two little girls the same age as our kids who needed clothes, coats, and who loved Barbies and baby dolls. I also remember initially thinking, If I spend too much on gifts for these girls, it’s going to cut into my budget for my own kids. We aren’t made of money, either.

And I immediately felt convicted of two things.

First, that adopting these girls for Christmas was not about me.

Shopping for them shouldn’t be something I was doing to feel good about myself. Was I seeking the cheapest way to feel like a good Christian this holiday season or was I legitimately wanting to help these children? I needed to think of these little girls as more than a shopping list. I needed to remember that no matter what type of situation they were in, completely beyond their control, they were two children who God loved dearly and were no less important than my own children.

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These girls had a mother who loved them so much and wanted to see their little faces light up with joy on Christmas morning, just like I couldn’t wait to do with my own children. Which led to the second reminder . . . 

God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). Not a hesitant, reluctant, or stingy giver. What kind of giver was I being if my giving was driven not by faith-filled generosity, but out of apprehensive obligation? If God sees our hearts, what was mine communicating?

Truthfully, sometimes giving can hurt. It can feel uncomfortable. Sacrificial giving rarely takes place inside a comfort zone.

This holiday season, if you choose to take a tag from one of these trees, resist the temptation to be a penny-pincher. Don’t give out of obligation, give with a cheerful, generous heart. Don’t communicate to a child in need that they are worthy of less by choosing to offer them cheap gifts from the dollar store.

The Christmas gifts you provide might be the only gifts they are getting this year. What a beautiful, blessed opportunity to be the reason this season that a child still believes there is good in the world, that they are seen and loved.

Let’s be the hands and feet of Jesus to those around us, and let’s do it with a cheerful heart.

Kristen Stewart

Kristen spends her days chasing after her toddler, kindergartener, and two cats. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and enjoys long walks through the bookstore, Target, and the local hardware store. She loves to write about motherhood, marriage, mental health, and her Christian faith through her Faith Filled Mama blog on Instagram and Facebook