"Y'all, I spent all morning in the ER!" the Texan-turned-Tennessean told the festively dressed crowd. "But don't worry. They gave me a shot of B12 and I'm feeling great and so excited to be here!"
Though a dozen special guests were on the bill, the first to join her on stage wasn't another entertainer but 6-month-old daughter River Rose, making her concert debut wearing baby headphones and a bright red dress like her mama.
"Isn’t she just the cutest?" beamed Clarkson. "This is her first Christmas and her first Christmas dress and I just had to bring her out here to show her off. I've probably scarred her for life!"
The sold-out concert was a fundraiser for four Nashville non-profits, all highlighted in video clips throughout the two-hour show.
Clarkson took the solo spotlight on several tunes from her 2013 Christmas album, Wrapped in Red, sharing with the audience that the title song was written for her then-boyfriend Brandon Blackstock. "I had been single a long time and this song was my 'I'm going to do it' moment, my way of saying 'I'm all in.'" She also performed "Winter Dreams (Brandon's Song)" "….for my man."
Martina McBride belted "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," Hayley Williams channeled Elvis in "Blue Christmas," Meghan Trainor covered Justin Bieber's "Mistletoe" and Garth Brooks mesmerized the audience with just his guitar and vocal on "Drummer Boy." Clarkson and Ronnie Dunn performed a cheeky duet of "Baby It's Cold Outside." Three big voices – Clarkson, Trisha Yearwood and Reba McEntire – came together for a spellbinding "Silent Night."
Before she left the stage, McEntire bragged on her daughter-in-law. "All you young girls out there who want to be a singer, Kelly is one to follow. She's not only a great singer, she has the biggest heart I know. She is a true role model and I'm so proud of her."
Just before the snow-shower finale of "All I Want for Christmas Is You," Clarkson emotionally announced that more than $200,000 had been raised that night through ticket sales, texting and online donations. When Yearwood ran out from the wings and whispered something in her ear, the singer covered her face with her hands, then smiling through tears announced, "Trisha just told me that she and Garth are going to match every dollar we raise tonight. This really is a miracle! I love y'all so much and can't wait to do it again. Merry Christmas and see you next year!"