Before Amsterdam had numbers for houses, people used plaques on their walls to identify their home or business premises. Perhaps this one belonged to one of the many exiles living in what was then a small city on a marshy riverside. Here is Joseph taking a watchful Mary and Baby away to Egypt; He has his tools with him, including one very long saw. Perhaps he cut his own planks from the tree, or maybe it pleased the artist’s eye to show it at the pinnacle of the picture. Joseph may have given up his business but he was not giving up work.
Exile was a serious business, true enough, but Joseph was able to start work in Cairo and support his family. (The Franciscan church there that bears his name is said to be near the Holy Family’s home.)
Here is a prayer from USPG.
O God, who made your home among us in Jesus of Nazareth, we pray for those who have been forced from their homes and now live as migrants and refugees. Bless them and all who work to bring them relief, comfort and a new home.
We could pray, too, that refugees may be allowed to find work and education in their exile, that they may be better equipped to help restore their homeland when they are able to return.