“A lot of times,” Gray said, “when you listen to a Christmas record, there’s something that doesn’t feel like a real record. We wanted ours to feel like a real record.”
Gray’s idea was inspired by Frederick Buechner’s “Peculiar Treasures,” a book that retells the stories of central figures in the Christmas legend in more human terms.
For instance, Gray’s song “Rest (The Song of the Innkeeper)” explores the harried mind of the innkeeper on the night of Jesus Christ’s birth. As Gray sings “I need somebody to rescue me/ I need rest,” he links the need for relief with the need for salvation.
In “Forgiveness is a Miracle,” Gray explores the story of Joseph, a man whose faith is surely tested when he learns his fiancé is pregnant and the baby is not his: “Did you let her see you cry/ When she said the child was not your baby?”
Gray said he wanted to make a Christmas album that went beyond seasonal nostalgia.
“I think I made my record label a little nervous,” he said. “So much Christmas music is played in the background while you’re baking cookies or decorating the tree. And I have no contempt for that. I listen to Christmas music that way, too. But I wanted to tell stories that pushed the human elements to the forefront.”
Gray said his concert will include a full band as well as two of his sons making musical contributions. The first half will comprise songs from his previous albums; during the second half, Gray is playing the Christmas album in its entirety.