Listen to this track by angelically voiced singer-songwriter and Christmas fan Shawn Colvin. It’s “Love Came Down At Christmas” as taken from her seasonally-flavoured 1998 Holiday Songs & Lullabies album , which is comprised of crisp and tender renderings of seasonal favourites, matched with restlful lullabies.
This song is a retelling of the Christmas story, infused with a sort of spiritual wonder. Yet, to me the ideas in this song are less about a religious message, and more about the universal themes of aiming one’s sights for greater awareness of, and connection to, those around them. What better message is there for this Yuletide time of year?
Aided by producer and fellow Christmas music fan Doug Petty, Colvin produced a record that put original songs alongside traditional holiday songs. The result is something deeply personal, yet accessible too.
But, where did this record come from, exactly?
This album and the songs that appear on it were largely inspired by the fact that Colvin was about to become a mother. She was 8 1/2 months pregnant when she recorded the album. And at the same time, she was revisiting her own childhood with children’s author Maurice Sendak, the guy that wrote Where the Wild Things Are, among other works. Colvin had been given Sendak’s book Lullabies and Night Songs by her parents when she was eight. You can see the Sendak connection in the cover art of the album, since he illustrated it. You can certainly hear the night in this song too with its calm, restful tone that is true across the running time of the whole album.
Perhaps this sense of night in the song and on the record is also because the Christmas story itself is something of a night song, or night story, with a couple traveling on their own looking for a place to rest one night, while the birth of their child was imminent. So, it’s also a story about motherhood, the vulnerability of being with child in less than ideal circumstances , and the miracle of birth along with the hope it beings those who witness it.
In this respect alone, the Christmas story is a powerful tale. That universality is what lies at the heart of this song, holding all of those ineffable feelings of childlike wonder and humility in the face of a birth together. The song to me is about the idea that humanity is, in the end, in this thing together, whatever it is. And what better time to think about that than during Christmas time?
For more information about Shawn Colvin, be sure to check out the Shawn Colvin official site.