My Christmas Story

I have been a cardiac surgeon now for fourteen years. Despite being a successful professional, I realize that a successful career does not necessarily imply having spiritual peace in my daily life.

In fact, I had to truly open my heart to God to gain the peace & true happiness I have now. Through this perspective I have also been able to see how close the Lord has been to me throughout my entire life.

Christmas Eve of 2009 arrived to find me all alone. Loneliness seems to intensify throughout the holidays when you don’t have your family with you to celebrate it.   

I tried to figure out some activities that would keep me busy during this special occasion. I decided to attend church and enjoyed the pre-ceremony carol concert, as is the tradition at my church.  

Mentally preparing for this solemn feast, I started to pray around 9 p.m. I spoke to God in a very profound and simple manner. I told Him that I felt lonely and that loneliness can be a very bad companion. I asked for a sign that He was listening; I wanted to know and feel that I was not by myself and that He was with me.  

I will always remember that day, mainly because of the intensity of the prayer. Once I finished praying, I felt good about my conversation with God. It was a very strange, peaceful feeling. 

I realized that I still had a couple of hours before going to church. To pass the time, I went to my computer and started browsing on YouTube. I found my favorite Christmas carol “What Child Is This?” and posted it to my Facebook wall.  

After that, I turned on the TV, and to my surprise, the first channel that came up was also playing “What Child Is This?” I listened again and enjoyed the beautiful melody and lyrics. Once it finished, I switched to a Christian network, and they were also playing the same song. It seemed I was getting a private concert of multiple versions of my favorite song! 

At that moment, I couldn’t help but think that these coincidences were unique, three different versions of my favorite song: a sign of God or pure luck? 

It was time to go, so I went to my car.  When I started the car, my radio was on. Guess what song was playing? Once again, “What Child Is This?” was on the radio.  By that time, coincidence, fate, or pure luck was very questionable.

I arrived to church early enough to enjoy the beautiful concert. For that occasion the choir was accompanied by brass, bells, oboe, and flute. The church was also decorated very nicely.  

Obviously, I could not stop thinking about how many times I had heard my longtime favorite carol in such a brief time frame. 

My mind was going back and forth between paying attention to the ceremony and thinking that I had just heard the same song four times in less than an hour.

Struggling to regain prayerful meditation in preparation for communion, I continued to ask God for His company. I was concentrated in prayer when the communion hymn started. I remember how softly the organ introduced a melody very familiar to me. That night I had heard that serene hymn four times prior to coming to church.  The words penetrated my consciousness, “What child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?” Seeking my own rest, I opened eyes, which had started to flood with tears. I recall the overwhelming amount of emotion that I experienced when I heard it. I remember the extraordinary effort it took to keep my tears under control.

I thought so many things while I was walking toward communion. For some reason, I felt somewhat embarrassed because, despite the fact that God had given me the joy of listening to the song four times, I was still entertaining the possibility that it was a coincidence.

The bottom line is that I know better. During my years in medical school, I took a class called biostatistics, which I hated. One of the few things I learned in that class was that the higher the number of cases occurring in a series, the lower the possibility that it is a coincidence. In other words, statistically speaking, it was not a coincidence – five times? No way, Jose!

Despite feeling embarrassed, I felt so much joy and peace after receiving such a special gift from God. I could not believe it!  It was as though God had said to me, “What else do I need to do so you know that I am here with you?”

Now I ask you: Coincidence or God-cidence?